Story by Bailey Walker
It is difficult to argue that someone would prefer to live in any other time than the present. Food, healthcare and luxury goods are more accessible than ever. The modern world is ripe with bounty, but it is not perfect. Depression diagnoses have risen sharply, and though some of the surge can be attributed to greater attention to the issue and a reduction in stigma of mental illness, it’s not the only explanation. A 2012 study by Dr. Brandon Hidaka, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders found obesity, sedentary lifestyles caused by computer-based working, sunlight and sleep deprivation, competition, inequality and loneliness are key problems from the modern world that contribute to rises in depression. The over-saturation of goods, though riddled with drawbacks, has massive usefulness but in this time of abundance many are left out of the lion’s share.
Punk artists Chris Calvin and Hannah Jones argue in their piece “Laziness is Next to Evilness,” “... This luxury comes from slavery in some far, far away place. Always think about the things you buy and where they’re from and how they’re made. Always try to keep in mind that your privilege comes on the backs of slaves.”
Luxury goods, such as those from Apple and Nike, are manufactured cheaply overseas using unprotected workers and are then sold domestically. Worker exploitation supports the everyday lifestyles of billions of people.
On the spectrum of exploitation, slavery may be the pinnacle, stealing all forms of agency from a person and profiting entirely from their bondage. Exploitation beyond slavery exists in varying forms and degrees; underpaying immigrant workers, whether they work in agriculture or construction, poverty wages, sweatshops and prison labor, are all differing forms of exploitation.
Noticeably, across these forms of exploitation is a unifying motivation: profit. Wealthy business owners choose to outsource work to nations with lax labor laws. The notion “immigrants drive wages down” is a misnomer, business owners being the ultimate deciders in the matter choose to pay immigrants less. The minimum wage has remained stagnant since the ‘70s because business controllers make more money that way, landowners supported and perpetuated the institution of slavery to sustain profits from their plantations. Structurally speaking, exploiting workers is one of the most apparent cost-saving measures and therefore the most common. An Economic Policy Institute study in 2017 found that in the 10 most populous states, around $8 billion were lost to minimum wage violations. This amount is a quarter of their total earned wages, and is equivalent to $3,300 taken per worker per year.
The current condition of the United States was built on the basis of forced labor from African slaves founded in approval from northern and southern institutions. Economic gains that cemented the U.S. as a global superpower were made using slave labor and the contemporary U.S. benefits from that legacy.
The Americas were invaded and colonized by the European powers beginning in 1492 with Christopher Columbus and, as early as 1526, slavery took root on the continent. Slaves were brought to what would become Brazil, four years after being brought to North America. Over the next 300 years until abolition, Brazil received 40 percent of all imported slaves to the Americas. Comparatively, North America received around 10 percent of all imported slaves to the Americas. Forced labor was essential to quickly extracting wealth from the continent, taming and cutting back the rain forests of South America and working the fields of the labor-intensive cash crops spanning both the North and South continents. Slaves were liberally utilized in the Colonial U.S. before their relegation to the South in the era leading up to the Civil War.
In 1703, 42 percent of households in New York state owned slaves; only Charleston, South Carolina had more. In 1740, one-third of Manhattan’s workforce was made up of enslaved black men. The idea that the North divorced itself from slavery is half true, in that at one time they owned many slaves and then reduced their numbers drastically; however, the North did not stop benefiting from the institution nor did racism weaken.
Edward Baptist is a history professor at Cornell University and author of “The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism.” Baptist argued the industry of the North, as well as American industrialization generally, relied heavily on the global trade monopoly America controlled on cotton that was achieved using slave labor.
“Slavery’s expansion shaped every crucial aspect of the economy and politics of the new nation-not only increasing its power and size, but also, eventually, dividing US politics, differentiating regional identities and interests, and helping make the civil war possible,” Baptist wrote.
The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History concluded similarly; “One crop, slave-grown cotton, provided over half of all US export earnings. By 1840, the South grew 60 percent of the world’s cotton and provided some 70 percent of the cotton consumed by the British textile industry. Thus slavery paid for a substantial share of the capital, iron, and manufactured goods that laid the basis for American economic growth.”
This interdependence of North and South made the economic gains and rapid industrialization undertaken by the US a direct product of slavery.
The Global Policy Forum reported, “The value of that critical “contribution” to United States’ industrialization and export of capital, with an interest of six percent compounded through 1993 is a staggering bill of $97,100,000,000,000.”
The United States and therefore the world as it is currently known was created through the subjugation of African slaves and their subsequent generations. Profit motivated the kidnapping and brutalization of millions, and only once profit became untenable were they then freed. Both ‘halves’ of the prevailing North-South narrative profited and actively contributed to the prolonging of the institution of slavery. Slavery acted as a jumping off point for the industrialized global economy, but exploitation in other forms is continually used in pursuit of profit and cost-cutting. Multinational corporations routinely utilize unprotected workers; those in countries with even more lax labor laws than the U.S., undocumented immigrants who have come to The States, and those incarcerated within the country.
Read Part Two in the next issue of the 15th Street News.
Story by Julie Archer
Photo by Kessley Miller
Why do people not report sexual assault? This question is asked often, especially with the recent confirmation of Supreme Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh amidst sexual assault allegations from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. People tend to blame survivors because they do not understand why they would hesitate to report assault. When people affected by sexual assault don’t immediately come forward, people generally tend to think they are less credible.
According to the National Violence Resource Center, 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men will be raped in their lifetime. Rape is the most underreported crime, as 63 percent of sexual assaults are unreported.
According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, sexual assault is defined as “illegal sexual contact that usually involves force upon a person without consent or is inflicted upon a person who is incapable of giving consent (because of age or physical or mental incapacity) or who places the assailant (such as a doctor) in a position of trust or authority.”
Examples of sexual assault may include but are not limited to rape, attempted rape, any sexual contact with someone who is unable to consent, incest, sexual contact with a child, fondling or unwanted touching, exhibitionism, sexual threats or harassment, forcing someone to pose for photos and sexual coercion, according to HealthyWomen.org.
Fear of Repercussions
Consequences of what will happen if they report sexual assault is a major obstacle that many survivors face. There are constant fears; fear of safety, fear of losing their employment or fear of losing trust are a few of the fears people could have. Some people experience their abusers threatening their lives if they ever spoke out about their trauma. Some abusers could be or have connections to a position of power.
Many people do not report sexual assault because of the fear of losing their credibility. There are cases in which survivors are not taken seriously because of the power their abusers may have. When the perpetrator is in a powerful position, reporting such acts could make things worse for the survivor.
When survivors report, they are often faced with judgment as opposed to support. Instead of being asked about the perpetrator’s actions or explicitly blaming the victim, equally insidiously, those told about the assault may focus largely on what the survivor could have done to prevent their trauma. They are asked about what they were wearing or how much they had to drink. As stated above in the Merriam-Webster definition of sexual assault, it clearly stated, “a person who is incapable of giving consent,” yet they are still held at fault if they were intoxicated.
“The biggest impact society has is blaming the victim, giving all the reasons why they ‘deserved it’, and the overall stigma we associate with being the victim of sexual assault, it is one of the few crimes where the victim is judged,” Tara Hall, Professor of Sociology at Rose State, said.
Children and young adults do not always understand the concept of consent. If they are survivors, they may think that what happened to them was their fault because of their lack of action.
Who is the abuser?
According to The NVRC, 1 in 10 women have been raped by an intimate partner in her lifetime. When a victim is assaulted by someone they trust, it can be hard to tell anyone because the person they may be closest to may be the same person who assaulted them. This is a common issue with sexual assault in children, since it is usually a family member or close friend who is the perpetrator. The NVRC reports that 34 percent of people who sexually abuse children are family members.
Survivor of sexual assault often do not see a way out of their situation. There can be a feeling of powerlessness after any traumatic event. Statistics show that 81 percent of women and 35 percent of men report significant short-term or long-term impacts such as post-traumatic stress disorder after experiencing sexual assault.
Survivors sometimes feel it is useless to report their sexual assault because they see how both survivors and assailants are treated after sexual assaults are reported.
Instead of receiving help and support when needed most, there is a risk of making matters worse when reporting an assault. Given these odds, a lot of people feel that there is no hope.
Where is the evidence?
While being sexually assaulted is traumatic on its own, reporting it forces the person to relive the whole experience. There is a fear of not having enough evidence to support their claims. It is recommended that the survivor receives medical attention. There are also sexual assault forensic exams to check for DNA evidence. Rape kits are used during a rape examination. During the examination, hair, urine, nail and blood tests are taken to determine if the person was raped. Rape exams can take four to six hours. The thought of going through an invasive and uncomfortable exam can keep survivors from reporting.
Without the evidence that the public wants, it is easier for people to victim shame or make the survivors look like they are not telling the truth.
Survivors can often downplay their own experience because they do not want to think about what happened to them. Some people think that their situations are not as serious as others, so they feel that it is not necessary to report it. After a person goes through a traumatic event, the human brain can block out the event. This makes it difficult to recall the details while reporting their trauma. There is a tendency for people to feel shameful and blame themselves for what happened to them.
There are many reasons why people do not report sexual assault. According to University of Michigan’s Sexual Assault and Awareness Center, there were 136 victims among 99 sex offenders. Later, during treatment, they confessed to 959 victims between them. Perpetrators that go unreported end up doing the same thing to another person.
Many groups encourage people to report sexual assault. Women’s March is one such organization. Members said people should feel safe through proper, public support systems to speak up so the abusers are brought to justice, and said it is time to evaluate as a society why we allow sexual assault and harassment to continue. One way to do this is instead of asking victims why they did not report it, give them the support they need and ask what can be done to prevent future assaults.
If you or anyone you know have been sexually assaulted and need help, contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673.
Story by Katie Duer
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs states that if a person’s basic needs, such as food, water and shelter are not being met, then it may be extremely difficult for a person to concentrate on anything else.
This is the reality for children who are homeless or nearly homeless. When a child is consumed with worry about where their next meal will come from or where they will be sleeping that night, how can going to school even be on their radar? Fortunately, for all students in Oklahoma City and surrounding areas there is a solution. A school is taking all of these factors into consideration and helping children with their education. Positive Tomorrows is a school for homeless children, focusing on academics as well as teaching the children social skills by giving them the resources needed to overcome obstacles they may be facing.
The Positive Tomorrows mission is simple: Educate homeless children and their families to break the cycle of poverty.
“Positive Tomorrows is Oklahoma’s only school for homeless children,” Rachel Durham, developmental officer for Positive Tomorrows said. “These children typically live with their families at any given time. About a third of our kids are in the local shelters and that may be the City Rescue Mission, the Salvation Army or the YWCA domestic violence shelter.”
One issue of utmost concern to Durham and Positive Tomorrows is that of safety and security for the children attending this school.
“We keep our location confidential, also we are really careful and keep the building secure,” she said.
They want these children not only to have a safe environment to learn, but to actually feel safe as well.
“We’ve had families living in abandoned buildings and even storage units, whatever parents can do to get their children off the streets and a roof over their head, they will do,” Durham continued, “As you can probably imagine, there are a lot of barriers that make it really tough for our students to be successful in traditional schools.”
Transportation can be one of those obstacles.
“Not only can we provide transportation to and from school every day, but we try and keep up with these families,” Durham said. “If a family has to move in the middle of the night, it can be tough sometimes to find them. Public schools don’t typically have the resources to keep up with these highly mobile students and their families.”
Many of the children are experiencing hunger and food insecurity; Positive Tomorrows provides for the children so that they can focus on learning by providing the children with snacks and two hot meals a day. The school also participates in a food program where they send home food backpacks on Fridays so that the children can have food over the weekend.
Positive Tomorrows provides a backpack on the first day of school with all of the supplies the child might need. They have a closet on site filled with brand new tennis shoes, socks, underwear, deodorant and toothbrushes.
Positive Tomorrows currently serves pre-k through fifth grade and are at full capacity with 74 students. Each classroom has 16 students with a certified teacher as well as an aide. Students receive one-on-one classroom attention, and if a student has a certain deficit they focus on it.
The school’s goal is to get the students caught up academically while they are there. All of Positive Tomorrows’ teachers are trauma-informed. It is common for domestic violence and other trauma to be the leading cause of the homelessness that led them there.
“Our teachers, you don’t hear them yelling at the kids.” Durham said. “They know that if someone is cutting in line in the cafeteria, it is most likely because they’re hungry, not because they’re acting up.”
Positive Tomorrows works to understand the underlying cause behind what some schools might consider behavioral issues.
“Instead of saying ‘What is wrong with you, why are you acting this way?’ Our teachers turn that dialogue internally,” Durham said.
Positive Tomorrows also helps parents understand how to advocate for their children, how to attend parent/teacher conferences and even helps them find careers, aiming at the root causes to ultimately end the cycle of homelessness.
Positive Tomorrows looks at the complete situation at home. They offer extracurricular programs during the summer like swimming lessons and even summer camp. They also have physical education, music, art and a basketball team. The support that these children have at this school and among each other is unprecedented. They are giving children hope again and for some children, they may not have had any hope before.
Positive Tomorrows is a private nonprofit organization. The school is not receiving any public dollars from the Department of Education. Its goal is to raise funds every year to keep the doors open, keep the lights on and keep their school buses running. Positive Tomorrows welcomes all donations. This school that is making a way for children who may be less fortunate. For more information or if you would like to help Positive Tomorrows, visit positivetomorrows.org.
Story by Yesenia Gonzalez
The holiday season is synonymous with things like overpriced pumpkin spice beverages, holiday gift shopping and spending time with loved ones. Conversation topics around the holiday dinner table can range from a mundane discussion about the weather to full-fledged conversations about political topics. A wide range of opinions comes with sharing a meal with family and friends who come from different walks of life.
Political polarization refers to how much of an ideological overlap or gap exists among different political parties. According to the Pew Research Center, a 2018 survey revealed that nearly 8 in 10 Republican and Democratic voters cannot agree on basic facts surrounding key issues. The research also found a sharp divide between the younger population, aged 18-29, and people 65 years or older. Sixty-nine percent of younger voters think Democrat and Republican voters disagree on basic facts in addition to various policy issues while 83 percent of older adults think the same thing to be true.
Various factors contribute to a person’s political perspective. According to Sociology Professor Tara Hall, family plays the largest role in a person’s development of their world view. Education level, peer groups and media follow in descending order of importance. Undoubtedly, a person’s political beliefs form an integral part of their identity and how they relate to the world.
A 2016 study from the University of Southern California’s Brain and Creativity Institute, Hard-wired: the brain’s circuitry for political belief, studied the human brain through MRI scans when presented with information that challenged political and non-political beliefs. Of the 40 participants, the ones who showed high brain activity in the amygdalae, the area of the brain involved in emotion and decision-making, were the most resistant to changing their minds.
Birds of a feather flock together, and that expression is not solely applicable to the avian realm. Humans are susceptible to forming groups because of their natural socialization tendencies. The environment a person grows up in influences how they view themselves and to which groups they can relate to. Contention begins when a person or group feels attacked by another entity with a different ideology. Since political beliefs contribute to an individual’s sense of self, any opposing or challenging viewpoint triggers a knee-jerk reaction because the differing viewpoint is perceived as a personal attack, according to Professor of Philosophy Dr. Guy Crain.
“There’s something about attachment to [our own beliefs] that’s associated with our deep sense of safety and security, which means, again, right, that it’s not really about the issue itself so much is it about me feeling secure and my group is clearly doing a lot of work in making that happen and my expression of those beliefs is somehow solidifying that security. And so, when people question those beliefs, it’s not so much about guns or evolution so much that it’s ‘I feel under attack’,” Crain said.
So then, fear is at the root of political polarization. Since a person’s identity hinges on being validated by others in their group, defending it is a natural, emotionally-driven response.
According to Crain, emotion is not an inherently bad reason to support a cause, since emotions are an unavoidable part of human nature and can drive a group to do better work and motivate the group to devote resources to the cause. On the contrary, emotionally driven arguments can be void of real substance. Instead, the opportunity could arise for an opponent to implement the ad hominem fallacy. Ad hominem is Latin for “against the man” and describes a type of logical fallacy where an argument about a person’s personal flaws ensues rather than a critical conversation about the topic at hand.
Even within similarly-minded groups, there are differences and subgroups, which can lead to disagreements among members.
“Well, I think one of our problems as groups and as a society, as a whole, is that we assume since everybody falls into group A, B or C is that they’re alike … Now the problem is, when we’re fighting for rights, or we’re looking at social justice issues or whatever it may be, we often forget that those other people might’ve had those different experiences,” Hall said. “And we kind of assume that our experience is everybody else’s and that that’s the natural experience. So we have in-groups and out-groups and, from a sociological perspective, if I’m in an in-group, I naturally don’t understand those others in the out-group. I’ve got a bias towards them because there’s something I don’t connect with, I don’t understand and I don’t recognize.”
Hall had advice for those potentially difficult moments at the holiday dinner table.
“When somebody believes differently than you, stand firm and believe in what you do but show them the same amount of respect you would want for your opinions and thoughts … If you’re gonna make an argument or take a stance, know what you’re talking about, have something to back yourself up instead of making these large, [overall assumptions; have some facts],” Hall said.
Crain also offered advice. “There are some times when it is just more important to value and relate to the person in front of me than it is to be worried about who wins and who loses and that, in my view, the loss of those relationships or openness to them, is probably more tragic than me losing some sort of [competition],” he said.
Story & Photo by Kessley Miller
Telling stories always come naturally for author Lara Bernhardt. As a young child, she would make up bedtime tales for her younger siblings. This has now transformed into her passion for writing her newest book.
Bernhardt has evolved into a sought-after author of fictional paranormal books that have been praised by both award-winning authors and readers alike.
Bernhardt, Engineering and Science division office and classroom support assistant at Rose State wrote “The Wantland Files: The Haunting of Crescent Hotel,” which became available on Amazon Sept. 1. This is Bernhardt’s second book to be published from The Wantland Files series. Her first book was a finalist for the 2017 Oklahoma Book Awards for Best Fiction.
“I’ve always been a fan of ghost stories and fascinated with the idea of the paranormal,” Bernhardt said. “I really enjoyed watching Poltergeist from a young age, and later on I started to enjoy watching Ghostbusters and Insidious.”
According to Bernhardt, what the majority of people do not understand is how difficult the writing process can be. When she first started writing the book, she explained how she just sat down and started writing, which did not lead to her definition of optimal performance.
After a decade of professional writing, Bernhardt decided to start attending conferences, seminars and workshops roughly five years ago to improve her technical style.
This series is perfect for anyone who is looking to get in the Halloween spirit or interested in a light paranormal activity read.
All of Bernhardt’s books are available for purchase on Amazon.com for $3.99.