The recent incident involving a wrestler from Buena Regional High School was more than disturbing, placing the degradation of a youth of color in the national spotlight. While the video clip was short, many different factors had an impact on this event.
Several questions arise from the situation that must be asked and addressed, including:
But there are also deeper questions that speak to the systemic, institutional racism that permeates different aspects of society. Among these:
We need to hold the decision makers in all areas of high school sports accountable for failing to provide an inclusive environment with equity of access for everyone in a manner that respects the identity and dignity of youth of color.
- The SJWPC Board
New Jersey is a vibrant and diverse state, but when looking at the state’s political representation, it is hard to tell when we repeatedly have representatives that are overwhelmingly white and male. New Jersey has never had a female US Senator. Out of 12 Congressional seats, only one is currently held by a woman (in 2019 that number will climb to two, which is better but still far from where we should be). The picture isn’t much better at the state level- women represent less than one third of the New Jersey legislature, and people of color represent less than 20% of legislators.
Even amid this grim picture, there is one legislative district that stands out for its lack of diverse representation. South Jersey’s LD-1, which consists of portions of Cape May, Cumberland, and Atlantic counties, holds the shameful distinction of being the only district in New Jersey to have never elected a woman or a person of color to the legislature. That’s right, throughout its history, LD-1 has never been represented by someone who was not a white man. That is inexcusable and must change.
With the recent election of Jeff Van Drew to Congress, his LD-1 state senate seat will soon be vacated, and the Democratic Party will appoint someone to fill the seat until a November election is held. The 2018 Blue Wave that sent Van Drew to Congress was powered by high turnout and activism by women and by people of color. Appointing a qualified woman or person of color to the LD-1 Senate seat is an opportunity for the Democratic party to ‘walk the walk’ and show its commitment to diverse representation.
However, unfortunately, it appears that the party seems set on appointing Bob Andrzejczak, who currently represents LD-1 in the General Assembly, to the vacant senate seat. Bob Andrzejzcak would be yet another link in the long chain of white men to represent the district. Continuing the musical chairs of powerful white men in South Jersey, it appears that all the names being floated to replace Andrzejczak’s assembly seat are also white men. But where is the diversity? Where is the open process? These types of revolving door appointments are how ‘old boys’ clubs’ operate and maintain power. These structures are why New Jersey’s politics lack diversity. Dismantling these old fashioned structures and opening up the process will result in more talented and more diverse candidates that we need if New Jersey wants to be a leader in the national political landscape.
LD-1 deserves better. The SJWPC Board urges the Democratic party to remember its values, and to value the diversity of the voters it represents, particularly those who fueled the Blue Wave. For too long, the doors of power have been shut to women and minorities. The party should take this opportunity to crack the doors open a little more, which will make the party stronger in the long run.
- The SJWPC Board
The South Jersey Women for Progressive Change is an organization that seeks to engage in the work that elevates the voices of those that have been marginalized in South Jersey. A very key component to the work takes place in the political and legislative arenas that hold power over the structures that are currently in place to create space for all voices to be heard.
We are strongly opposed to SCR43, a proposal to amend the New Jersey State Constitution that would codify the partisan gerrymandering of our 40 legislative districts and pre-determine election outcomes for decades to come.
We advocate for access, transparency, and the dismantling of oppressive structures within New Jersey by taking a critical look at who holds the power in decision-making process. The past practice of manipulating district lines to favor one political party should not be cemented as a law in this state. Shifting the control of these lines from the political party chair to an elected official does not eliminate the bias that should not be allowed in this process. A political appointee, whether appointed or elected, is still a political appointee. Our concerns with the current ballot line structure confirm to us that this change to the commission would still not equate to the fairness that is a right of the voters in New Jersey.
SCR43 does not move us towards where we need to be, encouraging voter registration and turnout, increasing civic engagement, or provide pathways for our state representatives to truly represent the demographics of the people that live in the state, in our communities. The language in this proposal is unclear and is the antithesis of what is needed to engage our citizens and our youth,
We are fully cognizant of the personality battles that have been going on between factions of our elected representatives and in our viewpoint, this latest proposal is yet another chapter in that tale. We are asking for level-headed thinking from all members of the Senate to step back and realize that the state constitution is NOT the place to be hashing out these power struggles.
While New Jersey was once held up as a state that was a decent example of the process used for drawing district lines, there has always been room for improvement. However, SCR43 is not that improvement. We simply cannot allow leaders to wield this tool to protect political power, as it has been used in the past. It did not work well then, and it is negligent to try again.
Focusing on this issue rather than elevating the voices of communities of color, of our immigrant population, even of women across the state sends the message that you really do not care about them having a voice. It says “Use your voice to vote for me, then be quiet until I need you again.”
On behalf of the South Jersey Women for Progressive Change, I stand here and ask you to vote “No” on SCR43 and refuse to allow this proposal to come out of Committee.
This position was written by the SJWPC Board.
The failure to properly act on the knowledge of the accusation of sexual assault against Al Alvarez during his hiring process points to a failure in our structures of government and law that fail to protect victims while letting the accused proceed with life as usual.
As an organization of progressive women we echo and support Katie Brennan's message that this is unacceptable. She is deserving of justice. We support the Governor's call and commitment to leave no stone unturned in figuring out how to provide victims of sexual assault pathways to be protected, supported and most importantly heard and listened to. The independent investigation, Equal Employment Opportunity and Attorney General offices reviews must lead to real structural change to make sure that victims such as Katie are heard and that the accused are not given a free pass.
In addition, the hearings called by the Legislature have the potential to contribute to the progress we need to make. But we are calling upon the Legislature to not make this a political witch hunt but rather a substantive examination of the way women, and victims of sexual assault, are treated in NJ Government and law.
The New Jersey Legislature is comprised of 180 elected officials. Just barely 25% of the members are women. Only one woman has been Speaker of the House. No woman has ever held the position of Senate President. This remains a male bastion of power that cannot ignore the power dynamic that is created in this inequity.
We think it is essential that in the Legislative hearings on hiring practices, and treatment of sexual assault victims, they include themselves in the scope of the investigation.
What is the record of the NJ legislature in overlooking or looking the other way at accusations of assault, harassment and misconduct? How many Legislators have non-disclosure agreements signed to keep victims silent? How many of them have made it hard for a woman to find justice if a victim with any hope of keeping a job in a male dominated workplace? What pathways exist within the Legislative branch of NJ Government to report assault and protect victims in a political space?
Furthermore, we question the motives behind the appointment of Michael Critchley Sr as the investigating attorney. His ties to George Norcross leave room to surmise the potential political agenda behind this investigation as we continue to witness Steve Sweeney's attempts at diminishing the public's support of Governor Murphy to obstruct movement towards progressive changes that will benefit the people of New Jersey. The appointment of Michael Critchley Sr with a notorious history of victim blaming as evidenced in his defense of the Delbarton School, also lead to further questions around the actual motives and purpose of these hearings. If the Legislature is sincere in their interest to improve the pathway for all victims of assault, rather than a political assault on the Governor, the scope of the Legislative investigation must include an examination of their branch of government. We are calling on the 180 members of the Legislature to respect all women and take a good look in their own house as part of this process.
Only then can we begin to make real changes in the way government treats women, protects and respects victims and assures that justice is not out of reach.
By SJWPC Board, September 12, 2018
South Jersey Women for Progressive Change is appalled by recent racist and classist comments made by executives at EMR and Holtec, and particularly by Congressman Donald Norcross.
Norcross was instrumental in encouraging businesses to relocate to Camden in exchange for massive tax breaks, working with the administration of former Governor Christie to grant Holtec $260 million in tax credits. Ostensibly, Holtec is supposed to create jobs and economic benefit for Camden residents in return.
Yet this is how Holtec CEO Krishna Singh speaks of his employees who reside in Camden: “They don’t show up to work,” he said. “They can’t stand getting up in the morning and coming to work every single day. They haven’t done it, and they didn’t see their parents do it. Of course, some of them get into drugs and things. So, it’s difficult.”
Rather than defend his community and his constituents, Norcross sided with the CEO, going so far as to compare Camden constituents, whom he is elected to represent, to children: “When you stop to think about it, I say children are that one asset that you can’t blame them for anything,” he said. “Same thing goes for people who have not had a structure that taught them.” This is an offensively paternalistic attitude, and it is incredibly disappointing to see an elected official siding with big business at the expense of the community he represents.
We wish that Norcross had instead attempted to hold these companies accountable for investing in the community, which is what they were supposed to do in exchange for the quarter-billion dollar tax breaks they received. It is unclear how effectively or thoughtfully Holtec is investing in the communities and its employees. Is there a comprehensive training program? Is there assistance with reliable transportation for employees? Is affordable child care offered? How many employees has Holtec fired and for what reasons? How diverse is the Union? These are all questions that should be answered before assuming the community is to blame.
All too often what gets lost in this conversation are the voices of the employees and residents themselves. Did Norcross speak to any employees to verify Singh’s claims, or did he merely take the CEO’s word for it? Has Singh or Norcross or anyone else asked employees to share their experiences and their side of the story? Viewing people of color as faceless and voiceless resources to be exploited is an example of systemic racism- and we expect our elected officials (and the companies they invite in) to be better than this.
Singh made it quite clear how he feels about investing in Camden in and its residents- that is to say he has absolutely no intention of doing so at all. In fact, Holtec is doing its best to not have to hire any Camden residents at all. Singh explained, “We’re trying to automate a lot of processes, so it doesn’t rely on human skill, as it has in the past. Automation is definitely modifying worker needs. The high-skilled work that required people to learn and spend tens of thousands of hours to get good, that work can be done by machines. Which is the good news — because we don’t have such workers. This plant would be crippled if we relied on workers.”
Massive tax breaks like these rely on a very problematic “trickle down” theory of economic development. It is clear that businesses benefit financially from these tax breaks, and it is less clear that the community does. Another example is American Water, which moved just 10 miles from Voorhees to Camden in exchange for $164 million in tax credits. For this, American Water committed to hire a mere 10% of its construction workforce (which is inherently temporary employment) from Camden residents. Taxpayers are paying private corporations millions of dollars in exchange for extremely vague promises.
It is disappointing, but not particularly surprising, to see CEOs who care more about profit than community. But what is absolutely shocking is for government and elected officials to throw hundreds of millions of dollars at these corporations in exchange for so little. If the ultimate goal is automation, then how are these companies helping Camden at all? If our Congressman is not holding them accountable to the residents of the City, then who is?
If you are a Camden resident and employee or former employee of Holtec, EMR, American Water, Subaru, Conner Strong and Buckelew, or any other large currently Camden located or Camden-bound corporation, SJWPC would love to hear from you. Please send us a message via our Facebook page or contact us on Twitter. This story is far from over.
by Roberta Reavey
So, I think I figured out how to get a toenail in the closed door of Trumpster thinking. For the football fans, anyway.
Giving up football to show the NFL their "principles" has GOT to be killing them right around now, right? It may very well be the first time they've actually felt the pain of their terrible choice. Let's give them a way to alleviate their pain . . . and take a baby step toward the light at the same time.
The Svengalis of the Trumpsters have them believing that kneeling during the National Anthem is disrespectful to the flag, the troops, motherhood, apple pie, picket fences . . . whatever. They are completely convinced of it and staunch in their defense of that “principle.” Nothing could possibly change their minds . . .except . . . it hurts. It’s our job to show them how to feel better by helping them to adjust their thinking away from their “alternative logic.”
The chief problem with their contention is that at no time—NO TIME—in human history has kneeling ever been a sign of anything other than respect and a request for protection from the object of the kneeling. Never. Ever. In all of history. What we need to do is to ask the Trumpsters this simple question: what changed? What’s different about this situation that the opposite is now true? How did that happen? (Okay, that’s a bunch of questions. You can pick and choose.)
When you ask your question, the Trumpster will most likely respond as they’ve been unknowingly trained to do, with a deflection.
You: How is Kaepernick’s kneeling different from kneeling in prayer?
Trumpster: You’re supposed to stand during the National Anthem.
You: What’s different now that kneeling is suddenly disrespectful when it’s been a sign of respect for all time?
Trumpster: Our troops fought for his right to do that disrespectful thing.
DON’T LET THEM DEFLECT, and don’t be dragged off course yourself by attempting to respond to the deflection. Just keep firing away with your original question. Make them consider it, even if they never answer you. Keep at it until you can see in their eyes that they’re actually trying to formulate an answer, because there is no good answer! The only answer is that Kaepernick is black and the request of the players is for black people’s lives to be spared. They must realize it themselves. They NEED to realize it themselves. Even though they’ll likely never admit it to you in a million years, you will have done them two favors: you’ll have helped straighten out their logic, and you’ll have given them a way to watch football again. Yay, you.
The closer we get to the impeachment, the more necessary it is that we begin to look for ways to reintegrate Trumpsters into civil society again. It’s not going to be easy, and there probably won’t be any big wins, but we have to keep trying for the sake of civil society. Babies don’t give up trying to walk, and neither should we.
by Shevone Torres
I arrived in D.C. 2 days before the action took place. You can feel the tension. The moment I stepped foot in Washington D.C. I was overwhelmed by the amount of police presence. One whole sidewalk was blocked off filled with cops and dogs sniffing bags. I wondered what I just got myself into.
As I reached the place I would be staying at, a wave of concern came over me as I was told some of the alt-right was driving around black neighborhoods showing off their guns. We still continued to do the work. On Saturday we canvassed bus and train stops, warning black people about the rally that was coming Sunday. I came across this 91-year-old black woman who had a warm smile on her face. She asked why we were there, so I told her. It broke my heart to see that warm smile turn into fear and panic. “Why are they coming here? I need to get home. You need to get home.” I didn't understand at first until she told me her story about her experience with the Klan. The pure terror on her face told me everything I needed to know. After reassuring her I was fine and that she should stay safe, I continued canvassing the rest of the day. I returned to my room defeated.
Sunday. The day 400 Klansman would cast a shadow over chocolate city. My nerves were getting the best of me. That morning we all had brunch and went to a healing space. As we left to meet at 16&I, I was overwhelmed by the presence. As we marched towards the park, our numbers began to swell. Only after 2 blocks, over 2,000 counter-protestors had shown up. We decided not to go into the park because an abysmal 20 Klan people have shown up. We took that opportunity to turn it into black joy Sunday. We hooked up the speaker and turned it into a giant block party. Until you see hundreds of joyous black people do the electric slide and the wobble, you haven't lived. Then it hit me. Us drowning their hate with our love and joy was a powerful statement. It's the history of black people all rolled into a statement. You will not take our joy.
As the music faded and we said see ya (goodbyes are forever) I realized the connections I made, the new friends, would last me a lifetime. We walked back to our hotel room feeling we did great. A block away, we seen about 30 cops lined up on the block all the way to the hotel we were staying. It snapped us back into reality. So we silently walked down the block, (knowing anything we said could cause harm to us.) This is America. Our joy can't last too long.
I got to my room then I saw an amazing sight. Close to 100 antifa marching down the street. It was so beautiful to see them marching the black block. It was a reminder there are some out there that will fight- literally. So I laid in bed eating my funnel cake fries (yes it's a thing. It was delicious.) ready to sleep.
Monday came and it was time to leave D.C. As I gave my hugs out and boarded the bus, I went home knowing I did a good thing. Even if people don't know my name I left an impact.
by Casey Olesko, Planned Parenthood Action Fund of New Jersey
Let’s be crystal clear: the right to access safe and legal abortion in the United States is on the line.
With the recent nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, the future of abortion access, reproductive health care, LGBTQ rights, the environment, voting rights, and the right to be free from discrimination in this country are all in question. Whoever the next nominee to the Supreme Court is will have the ability to decide our country’s future path on all these issues and more.
How do we know? It’s simple: President Trump told us. Trump made clear that he would only appoint biased justices who would, in his words, “automatically” overturn Roe v. Wade, the historic case that legalized abortion in the U.S. And the facts show that Kavanaugh has already made efforts to limit access to safe, legal abortion. Just last year, he attempted to use his judicial power to prevent a young undocumented woman in U.S. custody from accessing a safe, legal abortion. If Kavanaugh had had his way, he would have allowed the government to delay the young woman’s abortion. Fortunately, the full court on which Kavanaugh sits intervened and allowed the young woman to access the health care she needed.
He’s also ruled against women’s access to birth control. Let that sink in: birth control, which 99% of sexually active American women have used, and has led to soaring rates of economic participation by women since 1965, when birth control was made more accessible in the Supreme Court decision Griswold v. Connecticut. Kavanaugh authored the dissenting opinion in the D.C. Circuit’s 2015 ruling on the Affordable Care Act’s birth control benefit – writing that he believed employers have the right to deny their employees health insurance coverage for birth control.
It’s clear Kavanaugh cannot be trusted to uphold the precedent of Roe v. Wade – that the constitution affords every person the individual liberty to make decisions about their body and their relationships, including the right to access contraception and abortion.
The stakes are incredibly high. Right now, there are numerous cases relating to reproductive health care access moving through the federal court system – many are just one decision away from the Supreme Court. At least 20 states are poised to immediately seek to ban abortion if Roe were overturned. Already, too many already face significant hurdles to abortion access – for example, women of color and women with low incomes already face barriers in accessing care. In a world where abortion is illegal and the Affordable Care Act is overturned, these barriers will only be heightened. People of color in the U.S. are more likely to be uninsured than White people and less likely to have access to family planning services, which can result in significantly lower rates of contraceptive use – and higher rates of unintended pregnancy. Though rates of unintended pregnancies have dropped significantly overall in the last 30 years, women of color are still roughly twice as likely to experience an unintended pregnancy as White women.
Who sits on the Supreme Court will determine the course of our history, and the course of countless lives. They will decide whether our government trusts women to make their own decisions about their bodies. We will only accept a Supreme Court nominee who will uphold our constitutional right to make personal decisions about our bodies and our lives. We cannot allow our children and grandchildren to have fewer rights than we do. Americans do not want to see this happen: more than 70% of Americans support access to abortion, including a majority of Democrats, Independents, and Republicans. In the last 18 months, millions of people have marched, flooded town halls and the halls of Congress to demand our rights. And if we were fired up before, you’d better believe we are super-charged now.
by Karly Grossman
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in his public announcement of the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy (a month into making it official and a year after “piloting” the policy) equated parents fleeing violence and trying to save their children’s lives with human traffickers. “If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you, and that child will be separated from you as required by law. If you don’t like that, then don’t smuggle children over our border,” he said. In a recent TV appearance, the Attorney General of Washington State said that, in interviews for the multi-state lawsuit aiming to stop the systematic separation of asylum-seeking parents and children, 4 out of the 5 separated mothers he spoke with reported being told by ICE officials that their children would be “put up for adoption in the United States, and [they] would be deported.”
The administration is under a federal court order to reunite the families they’ve torn apart, yet their own reported numbers of separated children in their custody continue to rise. After claiming his agency could locate and match separated children and parents “with a stroke on a keyboard,” Secretary Alex Azar’s Health & Human Services (who’s responsible for the separated children) is now telling the federal court that they cannot meet the deadline for reuniting “tender age” children (5 years old and under) with their parents. These are the most vulnerable of the children, and HHS reports there are only around 100 of them. They’ve had two weeks. There is no “one keystroke” remedy, and at least 19 parents of these very young children have already been deported. The government asked the federal court for “clarity” on the “question” of whether the deported parents and their children need to be reunited at all. (The answer was yes.)
It is abundantly and painfully clear that this is not an issue of poor planning or ineptitude in the implementation of an awful policy. That would be infuriating enough, and they would still be culpable for the trauma they’ve inflicted. The truth behind the cruel and illegal acts being perpetrated upon our fellow human beings - in our names – is much uglier. The reason there was no plan for reunification is that this inhumane, “get tough” policy of “deterrence” rests upon a plan of permanent separation.
Children brought into the country by smugglers are not returned to the smugglers. Temporary separation while Mom or Dad handles a bogus misdemeanor charge would not be an effective deterrent. Deporting parents without their children and with little to no hope of ever seeing them again? It’s not hard to see how a nativist, racist government with no qualms about trampling on basic human rights could see that as just the right amount of deranged cruelty to do the job.
Court orders are important and can cause monumental change, but we have a government right now that shows no respect for judicial authority with which it disagrees. Our government never intended to reunite the families they tore apart, and they cannot be trusted – even under court order – to do so. It is on all of us to make sure every separated child is returned to their family, that families are not summarily detained while their cases are pending, and that as many of them as possible (if not all) have access to the legal services and representation they need.
They thought we wouldn’t notice. They thought we wouldn’t care. Let us prove them wrong.
Here are two great ways to help. Please leave other suggestions in the comments.
RAICES (Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services) Texas is the largest immigrant legal services provider in Texas. They have established a Bond Fund which they are using to secure the release of detained parents and assist them in traveling to whatever far flung corner of the country their kids have been sent to so they can wait there until their asylum case is resolved. RAICES is also providing legal services to a huge number of separated parents, both in and out of detention.
LEARN MORE HERE: www.raicestexas.org
DONATE HERE: www.actionnetwork.org/fundraising/bondfund
The Immigrant Justice Campaign aims “to increase access to legal counsel for thousands of immigrants held in detention centers.” They are looking for volunteers “with a wide variety of skills to help defend detained immigrants – lawyers, interpreters, mental health professionals and other volunteers who play critical roles in making this work successful.”
SIGN UP HERE: www.immigrationjustice.us/signupproxy
By Kathleen Strykowsky
One important component in the battle to reduce intentional mass shootings is to examine the motivations of the shooters. Most mass shooters are white men, and school shooters are young white men and boys. Many times we hear that they have been bullied during their lives and are striking back at their oppressors. Bullying is a big problem, especially in high school as teenagers are asserting their dominance over anyone perceived as weaker. Parents, school teachers, and counselors should be vigilant in ensuring that students can feel safe in school and around other teens.
But the component that is often overlooked is that the most common victims of bullying tend to be girls, LGTBQ students, minorities, and un-athletic/overweight/different from the average students, NOT white males. Yet white male students who are bullied are the ONLY ones that retaliate through violence. This can be attributed to “white privilege” and male expectations. Our society trains young white males to feel as if they are at the top of the “food chain”. They expect to succeed and be dominant. When they meet obstacles and disappointments, when girls turn down their advances, or they don’t make the team or graduate or get into college, they do not know how to deal with adversity. If they have access to weapons they can choose to fight back through violence that can be certain to overwhelm bullies and everyone that they perceive as causing their own failures.
One step that we can take as a society is to teach our children how to deal with adversity. High schools need to have “Life Lessons” classes that deal not only with college and job applications and interviews, financial education, auto and home maintenance, but also social skills to role play and learn how to deal with set-backs, disappointments, being told “NO” and accepting the decision. Learning to deal with being rejected or passed over is a crucial life skill. We teach our very young children that they are all “winners” who deserve a trophy, and that they can succeed at anything. We MUST ALSO explain that things will not ALWAYS go their way, and that they CAN survive and adapt, without blaming others.