You’re Never Truly Yours: How Love and Ownership Are Synonymous

by Marcela Muricy, May 30, 2021

“There is beauty in the idea of freedom, but it is an illusion. Every human heart is chained by love.”

Cassandra Clare

When we are born, we are all empty rooms — white, blank, utterly devoid of all life and personality. Our parents, then, are the only ones who may enter freely: they paint the walls, play their favorite hits on a record player, and maybe hang a cross over the door. They make a storage space of us, piling cardboard boxes in the corner and labeling each as “mannerisms,” “habits,” “beliefs,” or “obsession with the JFK assassination.” From the very beginning of our lives, we belong to them, absorbing their traits and letting them shape and define us. They are the primary decorators of our “room” until we inevitably age, maturing and reclaiming agency of ourselves and our identity, refurbishing this space to our own liking. Yet, as we rearrange it with age, do we truly have as much autonomy in the matter as we would like to believe?

When we are born, our rooms are quite put together, with most interests hand-picked and presented as essential, our parents projecting onto us what they’d always dreamed for themselves. Ballet classes at age 2, ice skating at 4, Catholic school at 5 — all the beauties of the New World, supposedly. When we grow, however, things begin to change. We wear mismatched outfits to school because I like it, even if Mom says we’ll get bullied. We rearrange and redecorate our “room” as we reach the age of puberty and change our sense of self. Our perception of the world becomes completely transformed, that “room” finally opens for us to edit — the space seemingly infinite. 

We can change our clothes, betray our schedules, or shed a religion that once meant everything. We can adopt new hobbies and become part of fictional worlds we wished were within reach, allowing the smell of the worn pages to sink into our memory forever. We can find our true passion, begin reciting knowledge of biology like a prayer, and become intrinsically entangled with the beauty and complexity of it all. We can begin to reconcile with the fact that our parents are flawed humans woven from the same cloth, struggling to grapple with lifelong dilemmas. We can shift our mentalities from theirs, tune our radios to a different station, and make that same inherited room completely unrecognizable.

Yet, while some things we may edit, others are inherently permanent, at least in part. As we age and mature, we can modify the way our parents have previously made us think or act, but some things will always remain regardless of our efforts. We can detach the cross from the wall, yet the mark it made would still remain. We can consciously coat the walls in a new shade, but the other will still shine brightly underneath. If we listen closely, our ears pressed gently against the walls, we will still hear the echo of our parents in the things we say. We will still listen to music that we’re well aware is a result of our dads’ incessant playing of the ’70s hits. We will think with realism and logic, yet still find hints of our mother’s act like a lady perspective in our mind. We still belong to our parents in these small, significant ways because of the remnant traits and interests they’ve left in us. Now, though, we’re also made up of everything else, all the other experiences we’ve had up until this point, and all the people and interests that have affected us during this time — everything else we belong to.

So, then, as we age, do we truly begin to experience sole belonging? In a world of supposed free will, we could say we belong to ourselves, but this declared autonomy doesn’t negate the reality in which we act based on others. These may no longer be our parents, but we mold our lives around new ideas, interests, significant others, friends, etc. — anything and everything we love. This raises the question of whether we truly gain ownership of ourselves, or if we simply pass it onto the hands of someone — or something — else. When we’re younger, our parents hold the master key to our “rooms,” and later on, we simply make copies and hand them out to everything we hold dear. Our friends can tiptoe inside and slip an idea or two while we barely bat an eye. Our occupations can be even more invasive, expanding in the space and barricading the door so that they have unilateral control. Our significant others can have the same effect, moving and rearranging furniture of their own accord, creating a more comfortable space or punching a hole through the wall. We grant ownership to those we love because we want them in our lives, and so we allow them to influence us in this way. Because of our parents, we can be raised as God’s, our school’s, our responsibilities’ — until we become more our music’s, our friends’, books’, intellectual interests’, hobbies’, and everything else we spend our time and thoughts on. Ultimately, we all decide what is best to give pieces of ourselves to, and — as this list inevitably grows over time — the key is to embrace it and balance the effect we let it have on us. The room is ours, after all; it is ours to care for, or be careless with. We must recognize the lack of choice in love, however, and only hope to love what’s best for us — and that the key to it not fall prey to vicious hands.


Works Cited

Clare, Cassandra. Lady Midnight. Simon & Schuster, 2016.

Following Our Digital Footsteps

by Ean Tam, May 19, 2021

On January 21st, 2020, the United States reported its first case of COVID-19 in Washington state. Over the course of a year, offices emptied, schools closed, and normal life disappeared. By April 2021, over 553,000 Americans had passed away due to the pandemic. Now, as vaccine shots continue to make their way into people’s arms, the hope of defeating the pandemic appears more attainable. The vaccine is our shot back to the workplace, the classroom, and, some would say, back to normal life.

While suppressing this respiratory disease itself may be possible, many people struggle to take a deep breath and relax. For more than a year, across the country Americans have been sheltering in their homes, taking in the world through screens and behind masks. They have been waiting to return to work, hoping to regain jobs they lost at no fault of their own. It will take time for people to regain a sense of control over their lives and examine the mental health effects of the pandemic.

Perhaps we can comprehend how the pandemic played into the worst sides of ourselves. How did transitioning to a life online affect us? What will be our ‘new normal’ post-pandemic? How do we want to discuss mental health? To answer these questions, we should examine the research into our social and online behavior, including new techniques in studying social media activity.

A Life Online

When isolation orders began, we observed the panic: not as frenzy crowds going berserk in the streets, but in the simplest of manners: lining up at the supermarket. Under the threat of prolonged lockdown, citizens translated their insecurities through their wallet. In the United States, where consumerism is a part of our culture, our spending behavior can exemplify our human instincts: “Cash, and the fantastic appeal of what money can buy… provide a way for humans to distance themselves from the disturbing realization that they are animals destined to die” (Arndt et al., 2004). Certainly, not everyone assumed COVID-19 was going to be the ultimate scourge of the human race, but the mindset was there. As a reflection of that mindset—that we as humans can have some control over our lives—we decided to wipe out the supermarket shelves before COVID could wipe us out.

Of course, the online world to which we were regulated put us face-to-face with another nuisance we had already been trying to grapple with: misinformation. Unfortunately for us, online misinformation has only become worse. In beginning of the pandemic, so little was known about SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Once a rumor, half-truth, or plain lie made its way online, there was no way of knowing how far it could travel. But it is clear that unreliable sources induce panic and anxiety, stoking our fears of the current situation, encouraging us to prepare more (Usher et al., 2020; Johal, 2009).

When ventures outside of our homes are limited to stocking up on groceries, the possibilities for personal connections are lost. Small talk is hard to come by, especially when you are six feet apart, wearing a mask, and staring through the glare of plexiglass. Physical interaction has become impersonal. Even the relationships established before the pandemic have been hurt. The online connection has been unable to keep up with the loneliness. While we can turn on our cameras to see each other’s faces on screen, the interaction is not a proper substitute for in-person contact (Lippke et al., 2021). In a study of 212 Swiss undergraduate students, researchers found that the students, because of the pandemic, were increasingly working alone and not engaging in networking with their peers. Students’ depressive and anxiety symptoms also increased. The concerns about the students’ minds ranged from the “fears of missing out on social life to worries about health, family, friends, and their future” (Elmer et al., 2020). For mourners who require “restorative activities (e.g., travel, spending social time with friends),” those options vanished (Lee and Neimeyer, 2020). The emotional connections that would have helped no longer do, and the strength of the friendship has diminished. This faltering sense of belonging and attachments to others can manifest itself in our physical and mental health (Baumeister and Leary, 1995).

It is no secret that internet use and mental health are intertwined. More time spent on the internet affects our social interactions and increases the chances of cyberbullying. It appears the relationship between internet use and social interactions can go either way: problematic internet use (PIU) can be both the cause and the result of diminished social interactions. When internet use is the cause, social interactions suffer because of depression, neglect of offline obligations, and obsessive behaviors, all of which are linked to PIU. When PIU is the result of diminished social interactions, the internet is seen as a coping mechanism—a world to which people can escape (El Asam et al., 2019).

However, the world people enter is not always so agreeable. Excessive internet use has a profound impact on adolescents because they are not only victims of cyberbully, but also encouraged to take part in it. Online communities offer opportunities for validation. At times, participating in cyberbullying is a way for some adolescents to ‘fit in’ with their online counterparts. Moreover, an adolescent who engages in such internet behavior can be expected to develop PIU (Chao et al., 2020). It appears that most of the time, victims of cyberbully do not allow the abuse to end with them. They will have “a desire to respond, which may encourage others to join the fray leading to a potentially long and drawn-out series of increasingly abusive and antagonistic communications” (Chao et al., 2020).

Before lockdown, excessive users of the internet had the ability to separate themselves from their devices. However, once life went online, that opportunity disappeared. We all, in a way, became problematic internet users. A life online, while necessary for the past year, has shown to be harmful to our mental well-being.

Back to Normal?

When we eventually emerge from this pandemic, the cloud of lockdown will still hang over us. One of the lingering concerns will be the home as the petri dish. Throughout this pandemic, citizens have created their own fortresses, hoping to keep the COVID invader at bay. Every trip outside of the home was a potential for letting an intruder in. That is why we wiped down all our groceries and bathed ourselves in hand sanitizer after every door handle. The pressure to keep the home decontaminated has been especially hard on those living with vulnerable groups like the elderly.

Retreating to our homes for the past year has proven to us that some things are simply no longer worth going out: movies, restaurants, shopping. However, “even people who do not become housebound may become fastidious germaphobes, striving to avoid touching ‘contaminated’ surfaces or hugging people or shaking hands” (Taylor and Asmundson, 2020). Pandemic sanitation standards will persist, similar to how some American families maintained their parsimonious, self-sufficient lifestyles after the Great Depression (Taylor and Asmundson, 2020).

The stress of yourself being a carrier and potential hazard to those around you can be exacerbated when living conditions are tight. When living conditions are limited, tensions can flare. Unfortunately, some people find themselves trapped at home with COVID outside and an abuser inside, making their situation a possible source of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (Taylor and Asmundson, 2020).

For those who have contracted COVID-19, some have had to deal with guilt for possibly infecting others, embarrassment for having contracted the disease while others did not, and shame for not protecting oneself enough. Not even our healthcare workers have been exempted. In Italy, Daniela Trezzi, a 34-year-old nurse, took her own life in March of 2020 after she had tested positive for COVID-19. Trezzi’s colleagues reported that her suicide may have been the result of her concerns of having infected other people (Giuffrida and Tondo, 2020). As COVID-19 surged in New York City last April, Dr. Lorna Breen, an ER doctor at New York-Presbyterian Allen Hospital, committed suicide. The virus had taken the lives of many of Dr. Breen’s patients. Despite the overachieving and dedicated passion to her job, Dr. Breen’s family believed she “was devastated by the notion that her professional history was permanently marred and mortified to have cried for help” (Knoll et al., 2020).

Plenty of people will be able to return to normal life post-pandemic, to go back on the street as if nothing has changed. But for many members of the Asian-American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, this is an impossibility. A wildfire of misinformation spreads (and continues to spread) across the internet, pinning a substantial number of American citizens as walking embodiments of SARS-CoV-2. Therefore, for AAPIs, returning to a normal life post-pandemic does not mean traveling down the street as if nothing has changed. As the United States begins to open, we are already seeing increases in racist attacks against AAPIs. We have seen this before. In 2014, Ebola was blamed on Africans because it was deemed an “African problem” (Usher et al., 2020). The ease of scapegoating specific demographics is an example of maladaptive coping “where coping is emotion-focused rather than problem-focused” (Cho et al., 2021).

We would like to think there is a chance for a return to normal. However, for many people, this is an unlikely future. Quarantine and the pandemic experience have affected the mental health of citizens across the globe. The pandemic has left us lonely, guilty, and fearful. It has forced some people to channel their insecurities into counterproductive behaviors. Behaviors that prevent us from regaining a sense of camaraderie and interconnectedness—some things we all lost this past year in quarantine.

Putting Our Online Activity to Good Use

Although living our lives on the internet has strained everyone, there may be something to gain from our past year online. In recent years, mental health researchers have turned their eyes to social media. With every post, like, or share, there may be a hidden meaning waiting to be deciphered. A variety of social media websites have been utilized for possible insights into specific mental health issues. Twitter is a popular site for study. It has been used for learning about detecting signs of depression and suicide (De Choudhury et al., 2013; Tsugawa et al., 2015; Coppersmith et al., 2016). Instagram, Reddit, and Tumblr have been used to study depression, suicide, and anorexia, respectfully (Reece and Danforth, 2017; Shing et al., 2018; Chancellor et al., 2016).

Taking advantage of machine-learning to comb over patients’ extensive social media activity, researchers have found indicators of mental health illnesses. For example, researchers classified tweets of suicidal individuals by their expressed emotions, emoji usage, and frequency of tweets. They found that tweets usually expressed sadness then anger after a suicide attempt, and that frequency of emotional tweets increases while emoji prevalence decreases (Coppersmith et al., 2016). The machine-learning systems allow for detecting these indicators with accuracy as high as 80 to 90 percent. This technique of combining computing power with psychiatric evaluation has led to the term “digital psychiatry” (Chancellor and De Choudhury, 2020). The focus on social media is particularly helpful in studying younger generations. Regardless of race or medical history, a younger age has been “the only significant predictor of blogging and social networking site participation” (Chou et al., 2009).

Northwell Health, New York state’s largest healthcare provider, has realized the importance of using social media for the purpose of engaging with patients as soon as possible. Since 2013, Northwell’s Early Treatment Program (ETP) has specialized in treating adolescents and young adults suffering from psychotic symptoms. Dr. Michael Birnbaum, Director and founding member of the ETP, studies the application of social media as an indicator for psychosis. I spoke with Dr. Birnbaum to learn more about his research with social media and its implications.

“This line of research was happening in the world of computer science, but not so much in psychiatry,” Dr. Birnbaum explained. “The idea sort of organically arose through reading the exciting literature on machine-learning and social media. Thinking about some of the major challenges and obstacles to delivering effective care, we came up with this solution.”

To perform his studies, Dr. Birnbaum and his colleagues retrieved social media archives donated by participants. These databases were downloaded straight from social media websites and then inputted into machine-learning systems provided by computer scientists from institutions like IBM, Cornell Tech, and Georgia Tech. The magnitude of data for these studies were immense. For instance, in one study, from just 223 research participants, Dr. Birnbaum and his team had collected 3,404,959 Facebook messages and 142,390 images. With this Facebook data alone, they found that the machine-learning system could identify research participants who had schizophrenia spectrum disorders (SSD) and mood disorders (MD). In terms of posts and messages, those with SSD were more likely to use words of sensory perception, those with MD were more likely to make references to the body, and SSD and MD groups were both more likely to use curse words. When it came to Facebook photos—a more abstract source of analysis—Dr. Birnbaum and his research team found that those with SSD and MD were more likely to post smaller photos by dimension, and the hues of photos from MD participants were more blue and less yellow (Birnbaum et al., 2020).

Now, while the volume of information is essential to the experiment, the social media archives are not limited to just the research participants. Within these archives, you can find private messages sent by the research participant and messages sent from second parties whom the participant was communicating with.

“One of the other ethical issues is the fact that there are a ton of secondary subjects: all of the friends and connections to other users who don’t necessarily agree to have their data donated and analyzed, and so that’s something that, as a team, will need to sort of grapple with,” Dr. Birnbaum explained. To handle this ethical issue, Dr. Birnbaum’s studies had to eliminate the data from these secondary parties. So, while these secondary subjects may not have their private messages inputted into a machine-learning system, there is no denying that those messages are being stored somewhere at some point. It will be up to the patient to inform his or her friends that their conversations may eventually find their way into a stored database. Consent, conservation, and confidentiality of social media information are only some of the big hurdles of digital psychiatry (Wongkoblap et al., 2017). However, Dr. Birnbaum believes that with the correct system in place and an understanding from the public, the application of machine-learning can find success in psychiatry.

“This shouldn’t be about surveillance or taking the power away from the patient. It’s just the opposite. In my mind it’s creating a way for the patient to be able to learn more about themselves and also share it with their clinician. Just like when you go to see your doctor who orders a blood test or an X-ray, you donate your blood to inform because it’s going to improve your care. Though most people don’t like taking their blood, similarly, I imagine a situation where the benefits would be clear and patients would be willing and interested in donating their digital data to inform their care in a meaningful way.”

Furthermore, Dr. Birnbaum highlighted a key issue in psychiatry: the reliance on self-reported information. It has been shown that self-reported data can be unreliable and underestimate health issues (Wallihan et al., 1999; Newell et al., 1999). Dr. Birnbaum elaborated, “We just are notoriously bad at this—all of us—at describing our own behaviors. Most of us can’t remember what we ate for dinner a few days ago, and so I think that these things can be immortalized in digital data, and so we can accept it more readily and use it.”

And in terms of the depth and perception from which we can learn, social media information may be the closest thing psychiatrists can have to 24/7 observation of their patients. Retrospective analysis of a patient after they have been admitted into the hospital is not the best solution. Social media information may hold the key.

“A patient sees the doctor periodically, and they meet for a certain amount of time and then that’s it,” Dr. Birnbaum said. “You don’t really know what’s happening in between meetings beyond patient self-report. The [social media information] provides information about what was going on between sessions. So, you can learn a lot more about, or rather from a different source and a more objective source, about what people are doing, thinking, and feeling.”
Of course, social media information is no substitute for in-person meetings. For Dr. Birnbaum, “I imagine a situation where someone donates their digital data a day or two before they come to meet me in my office, and then we can discuss the findings and determine whether or not we need to change the treatment plan.”

Although Dr. Birnbaum explained earlier that routine treatment involves monthly meetings with patients, the timing of when a patient should donate their social media archives is not exactly clear: “That is something that has yet to be empirically explored. Maybe it’s once a month when they come see me, maybe not. I could imagine a situation where it is done at the beginning of care and maybe perhaps periodically after that. I think it depends on what information we’re after, what we’re looking for, and how each individual uses social media.”

In the end, social media activity would just be one component of digital psychiatry. The way Dr. Birnbaum sees it, “Social media is a piece of the puzzle. They’re also people looking at speech, facial movements, wearables, cell phone data. All of this stuff paints a picture. A more comprehensive picture.”

What’s the Point?

On April 9th, The Wall Street Journal published an article titled, “Loneliness, Anxiety and Loss: the Covid Pandemic’s Terrible Toll on Kids.” In it, the author, Andrea Peterson, details the faltering grades, confidence, and motivation of young students. One 13-year-old stated, “[I]t’s been a lot harder to make friends and talk to new people… I feel like a lot of us drifted apart… It has set in that I’m alone” (Peterson, 2021).

With vaccines getting administered around the world, our public health appears to be on the right track. For many of the students who spoke with Peterson, transitioning back to in-person social activities will be difficult, but nonetheless, they will finally be in-person. Hopefully, for all of us, returning to in-person work or school will be the remedy we need. But the final obstacle we will face is the way we confront mental health as a society.

When The Wall Street Journal shared Peterson’s article on its Twitter profile, many of the comments were supportive—a lot of teachers and students voicing their approval with the awareness raised by the article. Then, of course, there were comments like these:

It would be quick and easy to say kids these days are just soft. It would be quick and easy to say there are more pressing matters than this. But the people who choose these quick and easy solutions seem to forget that we are all wired differently. We process things differently. Just as physical abilities differ from person to person, our ways of handling strains of our mental health differs. And to those who say the deaths from COVID-19 are more important: yes, preventing deaths is the number one priority, but the pandemic will be over. Can we talk about mental health effects then? Or would we have forgotten about it already?

It is unfortunate to think that these attitudes can exist within families, preventing people from getting the help they need. Whether it be depression or psychotic disorders, stigma exists everywhere. The family unit is not always equipped to understand the needs of someone suffering from a mental illness.

“For the most part, it’s impossible to tease apart providing good care to a patient without involving their family,” Dr. Birnbaum told me while explaining the role of family at the ETP. “So, it’s critical that the family understands what’s happening and has a connection to the treatment team, is involved in the treatment decisions in some capacity, and knows how to be most helpful and supportive for their child.”

It is no secret that there is a clash of how we discuss mental illness. Some people, due to culture or age, like to keep it under the rug, while younger generations tend to be more open about mental health. Those who like to keep a tight lip about it find themselves being blamed for being a part of the problem. Well, to put it simply, they are. I would hope people do not see that as a political opinion. It is informed medical advice.

When asked about breaking the stigma surrounding mental health and culture, Dr. Birnbaum explained, “I think that’s part of the work and that’s part of the advocacy. And part of the excitement of early intervention is sort of getting the message out that there are resources and tools and help available. The more we talk about it, the better.” He added, “Hopefully that’s something that we can do by changing society.”

Changing society will be no easy task. It will take time, just like waiting for this pandemic to be finally over. The ‘new normal’ waiting for us will ultimately be defined by us. If we decide to keep things the status quo, then that is what we should expect. As difficult as the past year has been, we ought to make the most of it. With the new advancements in machine-learning, we can learn from the online activity we amassed in quarantine. Work like Dr. Birnbaum’s shows that studying our online presence can improve the way we comprehend mental health. We can learn more about ourselves, mental health, and possibilities for early treatment for young people. When it comes to pandemic, the light at the end of the tunnel seems to be getting brighter. While we cannot say the same for mental health, our digital footprints can help lead the way.


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Shing, Han-Chin, Suraj Nair, Ayah Zirikly, Meir Friedenberg, Hal Daumé III, and Philip Resnik. “Expert, Crowdsourced, and Machine Assessment of Suicide Risk via Online Postings.” Proceedings of the Fifth Workshop on Computational Linguistics and Clinical Psychology: From Keyboard to Clinic, 2018, pp. 25-36. ACL Anthology, doi.org/10.18653/v1/W18-0603.

Taylor, Steven, and Gordon JG. Asmundson. “Life in a Post-Pandemic World: What to Expect of Anxiety-Related Conditions and Their Treatment.” Journal of Anxiety of Disorders, vol. 72, art. 102231, 2020, pp. 1-2. ScienceDirect, doi.org/10.1016/j.janxdis.2020.102231.

Tsugawa, Sho, Yusuke Kikuchi, Fumio Kishino, Kosuke Nakajima, Yuichi Itoh, and Hiroyuki Ohsaki. “Recognizing Depression from Twitter Activity.” CHI ’15: Proceedings of the 33rd Annual ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, 2015, pp. 3187-3196. ACM Digital Library, doi.org/10.1145/2702123.2702280.

Usher, Kim, Joanne Durkin, and Navjot Bhullar. “The COVID‐19 Pandemic and Mental Health Impacts.” International Journal of Mental Health Nursing, vol. 29, no. 3, 2020, pp. 315-318. Wiley Online Library, doi.org/10.1111/inm.12726.

Wallihan, Daniel B., Timothy E. Stump, and Christopher M. Callahan. “Accuracy of Self-Reported Health Services Use and Patterns of Care among Urban Older Adults.” Medical Care, vol. 37, no. 7, 1999, pp. 662-670. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/3767088.

Wongkoblap, Akkapon, Miguel A. Vadillo, and Vasa Curcin. “Researching Mental Health Disorders in the Era of Social Media: Systematic Review.” Journal of Medical Internet Research, vol. 19, no. 6, 2017. Google Scholar, doi.org/10.2196/jmir.7215.

You Can Sit With Us, But You Shouldn’t Have To: The Hidden Benefits of Social Cliques

by Vineeta Abraham, May 9, 2021

Many adults with yearbooks filled with high school “horror stories” will claim they  originated from the rigid, harsh social structure they had to adhere to, complete with bullies,  queen bees, and their select array of victims. This myth is the reason behind many administrative efforts to integrate students in middle schools and high schools across the country as an attempt to attack the issue of social circles or “cliques” from multiple angles. When doing this, they often think that tackling the main problem involves eliminating the social hierarchies that exist in the halls of almost every high school. While this seems to be in the students’ best interests, it may be doing more harm than help. What teachers and administrators often fail to recognize is that when students are socially structured, they are able to create identities for themselves and thrive in the niches that the school environment creates for them. While most people assume this means that a sense of privilege will linger among several of these social standings, it should be noted that allowing students to stay comfortably within their social groups might be a better alternative than forcing them to intermingle. Although people have misconceptions about the nature of so-called “cliques,” and are therefore enforcing programs to dismember them, allowing these social circles to thrive, while taking care to encourage healthy cooperation between them, can help students develop psychologically in group settings and avoid the negative effects of not having a social group to call their own.

Much of the skepticism surrounding the existence of social circles in schools comes from  stereotypical assumptions about them. These are often fueled and exaggerated by the media,  through means such as books, television series, and teen-drama movies. The entirety of the  infamous 2004 comedy Mean Girls revolves around a typical new girl trying to outmaneuver the  social ladder that exists at her new school, including the “A-list girl clique” described in the  summary provided on the internet movie database, IMDb. In this movie, many types of cliques  and social circles are represented, as well as a clearly defined ladder that is topped by the so called “mean girls.” The movie highlights the entitled, harmful personalities of those who top these social hierarchies and proposes that cliques tend to remain vicious towards each other and cannot coexist peacefully (IMDb). Media such as this promote a general sense of wariness in the minds of their audiences, which include families, educators, and administrators, through their use of pure exaggeration. One may argue that some schools do in fact have a strong presence of social hierarchies and social ladders, but it must also be noted that this is not very different from how society is structured in a world outside of the school building. Status is not a foreign concept for our communities, and treating it as such in school doesn’t prepare students for what they will face long after graduating from their microcosms of the real world. However, it is possible to attract attention towards eliminating the toxic potentials of social hierarchies while still encouraging the social groups. 

Social circles have existed in schools for generations, and although the way they’re structured has varied through generations, their general formulas remain fairly consistent. Cliques are nothing new, as shown by Jerry Adler, a former senior editor of Newsweek who has written for magazines such as The New Yorker, The Smithsonian, and Scientific American. In a 1999 Newsweek article, he explains that these groups include “athletes and preppies and wanna-be gangsters; pot-smoking skaters and sullen punks; gays and nerds and, yes, morbid, chalk-faced Goths,” and remain “surprisingly similar from coast to coast” (Adler). This consistency further supports the idea that these social structures are not only normal, but even instinctive, especially for adolescents. Shayla Ahamed, a blogger from Penn State University, writes that most people are simply “inclined to become friends with people that are similar to them and share their interests,” claiming that while negative side effects seem to be the focus in the media, forming groups are for the students’ own benefit (Ahamed). Additionally, Daniel A. McFarland, a sociology professor at Stanford University, uses his 2014 study for the American Sociological Review to discuss details of social structures, calling them “supportive and protective” and claiming that this is what leads students to tend to create them more often than not (McFarland). Perhaps the universality in these adolescents’ instincts to self-segregate is an important reason why we should nurture, rather than destroy, this phenomenon that we term “cliques.”  

Although Adler describes that in some places, these hierarchies demand a certain  evaluation of “status” be added to the existing situations, this is not always the case (Adler).  McFarland discusses how “adolescent societies” form when students begin to create groups “with individuals who share similar attributes, behaviors, or attitudes,” continuously  emphasizing the term “homophily” to describe how students constantly look for a sense of  “familiarity” (McFarland). As students begin the extremely trying time in their lives  corresponding to their high school years, their need for connecting to others like them increases immensely, highlighting the importance of having a strong social system to guide them  (McFarland). Although one may believe that social divisions can lead to insensitivity or other  undesirable side effects like bullying, the truth is that proper lessons in respect can, together with  these groups, be advantageous to the student body.  

These avoidable consequences of cliques encourage educators and administrators to overcompensate and actually cause more harm. This anti-clique mentality is inspiration for programs such as “Mix It Up at Lunch,” a social campaign started by the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Learning for Justice project. The “Mix It Up” program aims to encourage students to spend time at lunch with people who are not in their primary friend groups by eating with people outside of those social circles. Learning for Justice has also created multiple other activities to promote integration, including “Mix it Up Dialogue Groups” (“Mix it Up”). Another such example of programs created in an attempt to dismantle these social structures is Abigail N. Kirk’s teacher inquiry for Penn State University called “Kick the Cliques,” in which she promotes classroom activities to encourage girls to cooperate with each other while avoiding the creation of self-made groups (Kirk). These and other similar programs aim to teach students to adapt to other personalities and promote large group settings by straying away from creating smaller groups or self-segregating. While their intentions are pure, programs like these are usually a mix of ineffective and awkward for the students being forced into them, typically without having the choice to opt out. While one may argue that current discomfort will pay off later on, the chances of making most long-lasting friendships from continuously forced collaborations are slim. Furthermore, continuous efforts by the administration to intervene in students’ social decisions can be more harmful than beneficial. 

Rather than trying to eliminate these cliques, schools should embrace the idea of  encouraging kids to thrive within their own social circles. Physician Susan Biali Haas, M.D. argues in her 2013 Psychology Today article, “Stop Trying to Fit In, Aim to Belong Instead,” that people should stop “trying to be something [they’re] not in order to gain acceptance,” which is what integration promotes (Haas). This viewpoint emphasizes the idea that people should embrace their own characteristics and look for those with similarities in order to find their social circles rather than drastically changing their personalities to match those of a preexisting group. The alternative to having to change oneself for the benefit of fitting in would be to allow students to create groups that are naturally suited for their personality types and interests — in other words, allowing them to focus on belonging (Haas). The concept of belonging encourages self-acceptance and self-esteem, thereby providing students with more helpful guidelines for life and helping redirect the goals of administrators. For example, rather than focusing on rearranging students’ social groups, administrative intervention can include teaching students to avoid mean or hateful actions towards those who don’t necessarily fit into their own cliques. Furthermore, author Mark Rowh writes in an article for Current Health 2 that many students claim cliques can be “useful anchors in their social lives,” showing the true benefits they can have on the socioemotional health of students (Rowh). 

Being in small group settings can be psychologically beneficial, and studies of “social  psychology, for example, examine how emotion, cognition, and action are shaped by the social  environment” (McFarland). In an interview with psychologist Dr. Stacey Scott from Stony Brook  University, whose research specializes in emotions and stress in development throughout the lifespan, she described the importance of having “social support” throughout one’s life and  claims that adolescents require that strong support just like adults do (Scott). She explains further by saying that the social segregation that occurs during high school or one’s adolescence is representative of how “adults function in society,” even claiming that “adults aren’t necessarily  friends with everyone, so adolescents shouldn’t be expected to be either” (Scott). She also  suggested that other research has been conducted in the past to explain the normalcy of students  to “view their peers as being nominated under certain groups” and that this is not something we necessarily need to eliminate (Scott). It also encourages students to join small yet fundamental clubs and sports. These clubs and sports follow the same general guidelines that most cliques do — the only difference between most of these clubs and allowing students to create their own social circles is the absence of administrative involvement.  Furthermore, cliques and social groups help students develop and thrive within a self-made “niche in some section of [their] society,” as examined by psychologist Jeffrey Jensen Arnett from the University of Maryland College Park in a 2000 article for the American Psychologist (Arnett). 

The fate is much worse for students who don’t belong to a clique at all. While students  may think that most of the so-called “shunning” comes from social classes of higher status  towards those of lower status, the ones who don’t belong to a specific group often get the worst  of the blow. Chris MacLeod, a registered social worker who founded the website Succeed Socially, claims that failing to socially integrate can lead to “slip[ping] through the cracks” of the community (MacLeod). This feeling of not being “right” for a certain group can lead to feelings of loneliness and exclusion. Although it’s true that those who don’t necessarily conform to a certain group may choose to be that way, either because they  “don’t have enough” of whatever that particular group demands of them or simply because they believe those groups are either “on a pedestal” or “below them,” MacLeod suggests that eliminating these mindsets and embracing the idea of joining a group would prove to be beneficial to one’s social state (MacLeod). MacLeod supports the idea that joining such groups even when apprehensive could help improve one’s social skills such as “making conversation, feeling more comfortable around others, [and] being able to open up to people” (MacLeod). Daniel A. McFarland further discusses the importance of this “peer network” in his research by stating that “cliquing increases” during adolescence because of the “attachment shift from parents and family to peers” (McFarland). Allowing these close-knit relationships to form between students would be a better alternative for educators instead of trying to break these social structures down. This, in turn, will eliminate many of the problems associated with adolescent loneliness, as described by researcher Ahmet Gurses in his 2011 article for Procedia Social and Behavioral Sciences as he attempts to connect the problems of loneliness in high school to “academic  unsuccessfulness” (Gurses). Students without groups at all can find themselves falling into a spiral of adolescent loneliness and social awkwardness, as described by MacLeod. The simple alternative is to embrace the benefits cliques can have on the student population (MacLeod).  

Although the use of the words “clique” and “social circle” have negative connotations, it  should be noted that the majority of these assumptions about the implications of creating social  structures come from personal experience. Most phenomena in society have the potential for negative side effects, but it is wiser to eliminate the side effects rather than their causes. Allowing social structures to flourish in a high school setting can actually be beneficial to the students both socially and psychologically. Rather than implementing programs to negate and eliminate the instinct of high schoolers to self-segregate, schools and educators should work to promote healthy segregation. This would encourage students to embrace their differences and connect with others by developing their similarities. Therefore, programs originally intended to eliminate the prospect of social groups should be redirected in order to fuel the creation of healthy divisions among students while promoting sympathy and amiability between these divided groups. The main focus of administrators and  educators should be shifted from reworking preexisting divisions that students make instinctively to teaching students how these divisions can help them flourish as they enter adulthood and the outside society.


Works Cited

Adler, Jerry. “The Truth about High School.” Newsweek, 10 May 1999, www.newsweek.com/truth-about-high-school-166686. 

Ahamed, Shayla. “The Science of Cliques.” SiOWfa15: Science in Our World: Certainty and  Controversy, Penn State University , 8 Sept. 2015, sites.psu.edu/siowfa15/2015/09/08/the-science-of-cliques/. 

Arnett, Jeffrey Jensen. “Emerging Adulthood: a Theory of Development from the Late Teens  through the Twenties.” American Psychologist, vol. 55, no. 5, 2000, pp. 469–480. 

Gurses, Ahmet. “Psychology of Loneliness of High School Students.” Procedia Social and  Behavioral Sciences, vol. 15, 2011, pp. 2578–2581. 

Haas, Susan Biali. “Stop Trying to Fit In, Aim to Belong Instead.” Psychology Today, 17 Oct. 2013, http://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/prescriptions-life/201310/stop-trying-fit in-aim-belong-instead.

Kirk, Abigail N. “Kick the Cliques: Activities to Promote Positive Relationships among Girls in the Classroom.” Penn State U, 26 Apr. 2006. Penn State University, www.yumpu.com/en/document/read/51491966/kick-the-cliques-activities-to-promote-positive-relationships-among-. Manuscript. 

MacLeod, Chris. “When You Feel like You Don’t Fully Fit into Any Social Group.” Succeed  Socially, http://www.succeedsocially.com/dontfitintoanygroup. Accessed 20 November 2019.

McFarland, Daniel A. “Network Ecology and Adolescent Social Structure.” American  Sociological Review, vol. 79, no. 6, 2014, pp. 1088–1121. 

“Mean Girls.” IMDb, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0377092/. Accessed 20 November 2019. 

“Mix it Up.” Learning for Justice, http://www.learningforjustice.org/mix-it-up. Accessed 5 May 2021. 

Rowh, Mark. “The In-Crowd: the Not so Shocking Truth about Cliques.” Current Health 2, a Weekly Reader Publication, vol. 34, no. 2, pp. 11+.

Scott, Stacey B. Personal interview. Oct. 2019. 

The Insidious Rise of Automation

By Ali Ahmad, April 23, 2021

Next time you go to your favorite coffee shop or go the checkout aisle at Walmart, you won’t be met with the warm welcome of a person behind the counter. Instead, a computer will simply prompt you for payment. Automation is replacing jobs that were once held by people with cold efficient machines. This raises ethical issues of unemployment, wealth inequality, and how we interact with machines. Automation holds the potential to drastically upend the precious balance of labor that we have today.

Automation is the result of advancement made in artificial intelligence, robotics, and advanced computing systems. Customer service is especially vulnerable to automation takeover. Instead of a cashier behind a counter, customer check out is now equipped with automated touchscreen kiosks.  Businesses looking to improve customer satisfaction and reduce wait time in lines are resorting to these kiosks. Leading technology and business executives concluded during a Gartner Customer Service Summit that “nearly 85% of all customer transactions will be done with humans” by 2030 (Schneider, 2017).  Furthermore, people are turning to robots for brand information and outreach. Facebook, along with airline and tourism businesses, are employing thousands of chatbots to connect consumers with ads—in fact, messaging apps overtook social media since “individuals are increasingly using messaging apps to interact with brands” (Schneider, 2017).

Automation is also becoming increasingly involved in the kitchen.  In 2015, four MIT graduates founded Spyce, a fully robotic kitchen that “cooks food constantly by tumbling your food, thus providing a nice sear” (Andrews, 2019). These robotic culinary contraptions cook food in less time and reduce wait time. Businesses are eagerly turning to automation technology as operating costs and competition increase, but right now automation remains more of a “ helping hand” (Andrews, 2019).

Having automated machines in the workplace has generated heated ethical dilemmas in the workplace. With an increase in automation, there is a good chance that some jobs will be considered obsolete in a few years. Humans will no longer be “central and critical” to the workplace environment and productivity (Mayor, 2019). Advances in automation also highlight the growing wealth inequality in America and impact corporate greed has had on technological development. From 1987 to 2016, displacement due to automation was 16 percent but reinstatement was only 10 percent in factory positions (Dizikes, 2020). In other words, more people from lower paying jobs are being displaced than are being hired. Furthermore, by pushing low income groups out of the labor force and replacing them with automated machines, the need for skilled labor increases. This demand for scarce labor may push highly skilled income further above low skilled income, widening the already massive income gap (Dizikes, 2020).

Introducing automated machines into the workplace could also lead to heightened workplace anxiety. By having machines that do some of the tasks originally done by humans, workers might begin to fear losing their job. Since automated machines are quickly becoming more and more advanced, it is not unmanageable to foresee a future where machines perform work in an office environment, thus “causing panic and reducing morreale” (Gaskell, 2018). If automation is to have a much larger place within our society these pressing ethical dilemmas need to be addressed immediately.

Automation is here to stay, and we need to adapt to the ever-changing technological challenges that automation brings. As algorithms replace human workers, there is a chance of increased unemployment. In an automated society, many people will face the dilemma of “broken career ladders,” in which entry-level workers no longer have any opportunity to enter the workforce (Wong, 2015). Entry-level jobs in finance, banking, construction, and even waiting tables could become automated in the future. These jobs will greatly reduce career options for many young workers. The future of automation appears quite alarming.  Once a reservoir of creativity and hope, modern technological advancement is quickly becoming a nightmare with extensive ramifications for blue collar workers.


References

Andrews, R. (2019, August 28). How automation is changing the way restaurants do business. Eat. https://restaurant.eatapp.co/blog/automation-in-restaurant-industry

Dizikes, P. (2020, May 5). Study finds stronger links between automation and inequality. MIT News. https://news.mit.edu/2020/study-inks-automation-inequality-0506

Gaskell, A. (2018, April 18). Automation, ethics and accountability of AI systems. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/adigaskell/2018/04/18/automation-ethics-and-accountability-of-ai-systems

Mayor, T. (2019, July 8). Ethics and automation: What to do when workers are displaced. MIT Sloan School of Management. https://mitsloan.mit.edu/ideas-made-to-matter/ethics-and-automation-what-to-do-when-workers-are-displaced

McNeal, M. (2015, August 7). Rise of the machines: The future has lots of robots, few jobs for humans. Wired. https://www.wired.com/brandlab/2015/04/rise-machines-future-lots-robots-jobs-humans/

Schneider, C. (2019, October 28). 10 reasons why AI-powered, automated customer service is the future. Watson Blog. https://www.ibm.com/blogs/watson/2017/10/10-reasons-ai-powered-automated-customer-service-future/

Wong, J.C. (2015, January 18). How will automation affect society? World Economic Forum. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2015/01/how-will-automation-affect-society/

The Power of Presentation and Representation throughout History

History is often subjective, with the primary voice being given to the winners. Accounts of historical events are often biased, and while there is much they can tell us about the people who delivered them, such as the driving force behind their actions and what rhetorical strategies and methods were crucial to their success and failure, objective accounts of history should also be brought to the foreground of discussion and show other perspectives on history, giving voice to people of marginalized communities. Some writers utilize the power of media and genre to enhance their message and to give it the larger platform it needs, like Fredrick Douglass’ speech “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” and the Munsee petition to former President Zachary Taylor. More recent works, such as the 1619 Project, look back on historical events, giving voice to those who were previously silenced. Written and oral transcriptions of historical events serve the purpose of convincing the reader of an argument, and giving an objective look at the past of this country.

            Fredrick Douglass’ speech “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” demonstrates the power of public forum and the emotional weight of spoken word. Douglass connects the experiences of the revolutionaries that led to the Fourth of July holiday the people celebrate now, to the struggles of the enslaved and oppressed black people. He says, “Feeling themselves harshly and unjustly treated by the home government, your fathers, like men of honesty, and men of spirit, earnestly sought redress,” (Douglass). Douglass intertwines pathos and logos within his speech, playing on the pride of the nation, the citizens who still believe so much in the revolution and their young country, and slowly unveils the similarities between their experiences and those of the oppressed. The very presence of his speech, his articulation, and his ability to stand in front of a crowd, humble but firm, only adds to the message he is trying to convey and only further supports the idea of equality by representing his intelligence.

            In addition to the oppression of black people in America, the manipulation of information throughout history is also crucial to the Native Americans exploitation by the American government. This was demonstrated with the Munsee petition, which reminded the president, Zachary Taylor, and the government of the United States of America of the history between the founders of America and the Native American tribes. They wrote, “The Commissioner’s name was Capt. Bullen, who acted on the part of the government of the United States, in making the said important Covenant of peace. He told our people to commit to Memory in their feeble way of entering into Record, such important national matters,” (Williams). The writers of the petition call out the commissioner and the government of the United States, illustrating how they played on a Munsee tradition of Wampum Records which eventually held no value or pertinence to the government. It was a ploy used to manufacture a friendship that would then be abused by the United States government. This is an example of how information can be manipulated and twisted by one side to get their way. The government, encouraging a Wampum Record while knowing it would have no meaning to them in the future served as empty promises in the wake of potential growth and benefit that the government officials wanted at the time.

            Though many accounts of history only provide the pieces of information that the winners wanted to emphasize, more recent works provide a more accurate and objective view of the history of this country. The 1619 Project allowed voices often suppressed to be heard, and for history to finally be shown through the lens of those it had oppressed. It identified the hypocrisy in this nation’s birth, saying, “The United States is a nation founded on both an ideal and a lie. Our Declaration of Independence, signed on July 4, 1776, proclaims that ‘all men are created equal’ and ‘endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.’ But the white men who drafted those words did not believe them to be true for the hundreds of thousands of black people in their midst,” (Hannah-Jones). A nation built on the backs of those it enslaved and denied rights to for hundreds of years often ignores the voices of those who try to speak up about the truth of America’s founding. Projects and collections such as these challenge the pure idea of the American memory and call it into question. They are the ones who are providing a truly objective view of American history by allowing all sides of history to be properly voiced and considered.

            Writing and transcription are very powerful forces in shaping history and shaping perspective. Both written accounts and oral accounts can serve as a complication to the objective view of events, but they can also hold power in analyzing history and in providing cohesive messages of change to societies. The purpose of all of these works is to convince the reader of the side presented, to justify their actions and their side of history, whether it be for colonization or change in society, but cultivating multiple perspectives of historical events is the only way to maintain true objectivity.

Works Cited

Douglass, Frederick. “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?”.” Teaching American History,

teachingamericanhistory.org/library/document/what-to-the-slave-is-the-fourth-of-july/.

“Gideon Williams Letter to Zachary Taylor – Transcription.” Scalar: Login, dsp.domains.trincoll.edu/HL/hidden-

literacies/gideon-williams-letter-to-zachary-taylor—transcription-uncorrected?path=andrew-newman.

“The 1619 Project.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 14 Aug. 2019,

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/08/14/magazine/1619-america-slavery.html?

mtrref=blackboard.stonybrook.edu.

Defying Labels: The Afro-Latinidad Complex

by Haasitha Korlipara, April 19, 2021

Think back to Shakira and J-Lo’s memorable, high-energy performance during the 2020 Super Bowl halftime show. The singers embraced various elements of Latin American culture, an example being the incorporation of two Afro-Colombian dance forms, Champeta and Mapalé, into Shakira’s choreography. What appeared to be a showcase of Latino pride, however, I likely would have never stopped to consider a form of appropriation had I not been sitting in Professor Cristina Khan’s seminar course on Afro-Latinidad in the Americas last February. It is important to note that this tribute to Afro-Colombian culture featured the lighter-skinned Shakira front and center, accompanied by Afro-Latina backup dancers. The performance offers a symbolic representation of the marginalization of Afro-Latinos, both within Latin America and upon migration to the United States. It is a result of this marginalization that Afro-Latinos must learn to navigate the complexities associated with their ambiguous identity.

Racism in a “Post-Racial” Region

Anti-Blackness is prevalent throughout Latin America. Yet ironically, nations in the region often deny the existence of racism. One popular argument used to support this denial focuses on mestizaje. As described by scholar Ariel Dulitsky in her essay featured in the 2005 book Neither Enemies nor Friends: Latinos, Blacks, Afro-Latinos, “mestizo” translates to the idea that “we all have some indigenous or black blood in us” (Dulitsky). The concept, however, can be used to downplay racism through the perspective that “if we are all mestizos, then there are no racial distinctions and mere discussion of the racial issue is therefore viewed by many as a foreign or non-regional issue” (Dulitsky). The problem with embracing mestizaje is that it is rooted in a history of racist ideals. After all, it was “by encouraging miscegenation or marriage between non-whites and whites to make the population whiter” that ultimately gave rise to mixed race (Dulitsky).

Another form of denial is based on the idea that lack of official racist legislation translates to absence of racism in the region. Some claim that “since the segregationist laws and practices of the country to the north [United States] have not been applied in Latin America, there is no need to look at other forms of racial exclusion and alienation” (Dulitsky). While there may not have been bodies of laws sanctioning discrimination towards Blacks, the fact is that racism continues to penetrate various aspects of society in Latin America. Alexander Gonzalez and Jessica Bakeman, in a 2018 article for WLRN News, discuss an example of racism in the Cuban entertainment industry (Gonzalez). In Little Havana, the showing of the famous Spanish-language play “Tres Viudas en un Crucero” features a Blackface character who, during a particular scene, “would jump on stage, pounding her chest and opening her legs wide open, and say that ‘we’re going to drink, dance, and have fun like three gorillas’ ”(Gonzalez). The inclusion of this type of Blackface character is considered normal in many Cuban theater productions for comedic effect, although the clearly derogatory portrayal reinforces the stereotype of Black people as savage and animalistic. Racism can even be perpetuated within the family. Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, in his personal narrative featured in the 2010 book The Afro-Latin Reader: History and Culture in the United States, relates his experiences as a Black Puerto Rican. He recounts his childhood years, describing how “[He] heard all sorts of racist statements about Blacks from some of [his] aunts and even [his] own mother” (Bonilla-Silva). While the racial categories in Latin America may not be as distinct—or as Black and White—as in the United States, there is evidently a preference for lighter-skin over darker skin due to the prominence of colorism. The myth of a “racial democracy” in Latin America fails to account for the relegation of Blacks to a collective identity that falls outside the norm, more specifically defined as the category of the Other.

Migration to the United States: The Afro-Latinx Experience

Individuals of African descent, upon migration from Latin America to the United States, experience a more blatant variant of racial discrimination as Afro-Latinos. Within the Black-White binary racial system, Afro-Latinos receive the official designation of “Black” and therefore become victims to the oppression that accompanies the label. They must learn that they will likely get pulled aside by the police or denied a job offer solely based on the color of their skin. Of course, it is important to simultaneously recognize the ethnic discrimination that all Latinos, regardless of skin color, will face upon migration to the United States. These Spanish-speaking “foreigners” are often victims of injustice within the workplace and housing market, giving rise to Latinx movements. However, as Cristina Beltrán puts it in her 2010 book The Trouble with Unity: Latino Politics and the Creation of Identity, the problem with the concept of Latinidad lies in the presumption that “Latinos as a group share a common collective consciousness” (Beltran, 5). This unifying term proves limiting in that it serves to mask the regional, ethnic, and most importantly, racial differences amongst them. Latinos don a variety of skin colors. Yet it is singer Jennifer Lopez who is deemed to represent the Latinx community while rapper Kid Cudi is assumed to be African American, his Latino background left unrecognized. Journalist Miguel Salazar, in a 2019 article for The Nation, highlights the Afro-Latino struggle with “what they see as an exclusionary identity fabricated by—and for the benefit of—white and mestizo elites…” (Salazar). As members of the Latinx community, Afro-Latinos must yield to the lighter-skinned Latinos holding power and further attempt to work alongside these individuals, who face an entirely different form of racial discrimination, towards a cause that does not necessarily correlate with their own. The root of the problem with the term Latinidad lies in its assumption of a shared experience for Latinos of all skin types, while in reality, there is a stark contrast between the way lighter-skinned Latinos and darker-skinned Latinos experience discrimination. In this sense, Afro-Latinos effectively become an Other within the Other. 

So how do Afro-Latinos approach their status as the Other? Oftentimes, Blacks in Latin America fail to recognize themselves as targets of Othering based on race. Eduardo Bonilla-Silva characterizes his own father as a victim of such ignorance. Upon recalling racial incidents, an example being when “a clerk in a shoe store treated him like dirt because he was Black,” Eduardo’s father would argue that these episodes were based on classism or individual prejudice rather than racism (Bonilla-Silva). This is largely owing to the persistent denial of racism throughout Latin America, as detailed earlier. Yet it is upon migration to the United States that Blacks from the Americas begin to develop a deeper racial awareness. The day-to-day discrimination they face based solely on skin color drives them to consider past experiences in their native land through a racial lens. It is within the biracial context of the United States that Afro-Latinos fully accept their Blackness. As a result, Afro-Latinos are unable to assimilate into the lighter-skin dominated Latinx community. Yet at the same time, they are rarely offered a space within the African-American community, which views them as “lesser Blacks” (Bonilla-Silva). And so Afro-Latinos take on a triple consciousness, navigating through life as a Black, a Latino, and an American, never fully belonging to one community. 

Conclusion

Afro-Latinos face the issue of marginalization, and that too, within two separate regional contexts. But new efforts are being made by Afro-descendants in Latin America as well as Afro-Latinos in the United States to combat racial discrimination. A 2018 World Bank report details how the Latin American region has gradually shifted from denying the existence of racism to acknowledging it, with countries such as Brazil and Colombia embracing affirmative action policies (Freire). This has further encouraged the rise of cohesive Afro-descendant movements, which focus largely on awareness-raising campaigns (Freire). Similarly, Blacks in the United States with Latin American origin have increasingly begun to reject the concept of Latinidad for their unique Afro-Latinx identity. Yet the discussion becomes more complex as we consider which individuals get to claim it. Are lighter-skinned Latinxs who identify as Afro-Latinx overstepping the boundaries of the term? Conversely, in setting these boundaries, do we risk imposing blackness as a monolithic ideal? Embracing Afro-Latinidad means navigating these important questions. But one thing is certain: Those who adopt the label must carefully tread the fine line between embracing their roots and commodifying a racial identity. 


References

Beltrán Cristina. “Introduction: Sleeping Giants and Demographic Floods: Latinos and the Politics of Emergence.” The Trouble with Unity: Latino Politics and the Creation of Identity, by Beltrán Cristina, Oxford University Press, 2010, pp. 3–19.

Bonilla-Silva, Eduardo. “Reflections about Race by a Negrito Acomplejao.” The Afro-Latin@ Reader: History and Culture in the United States, edited by Román Miriam Jiménez and Juan Flores, Duke University Press, 2010.

Dulitsky, Ariel E. “A Region in Denial: Racial Discrimination and Racism in Latin America.” Neither Enemies Nor Friends: Latinos, Blacks, Afro-Latinos, edited by Suzanne Oboler and Anani Dzidzienyo, Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.

Freire, German, et al. “Afro-Descendants in Latin America: Toward a Framework of Inclusion.” Economic and Sector Work Studies, 2018. Open Knowledge Repository, World Bank Group.

Gonzalez, Alexander, and Jessica Bakeman. “How Racism Persists in Latin American Communities.” WLRN News, WLRN, 1 June 2018.

Salazar, Miguel. “The Problem with Latinidad.” The Nation, The Nation, 16 Sept. 2019.

Fast Cars, Fast Women: A Societal Analysis

by Josh Gershenson, April 18, 2021

(BMW Hellas)

The advertisement above showcases a young, attractive woman with the caption, “You know you’re not the first,” comparing a used car to the woman. After receiving criticism and backlash, the ad was pulled and never ran (Green). Immediately, the blatant objectification perpetrated by BMW Hellas (Greece) is identifiable, but there is much more at hand regarding the interpretation of the deeper, more complex meaning and long-term societal effects this form of rhetoric can impose.

To start, beauty is equated to promiscuity. Promoting this, especially in the sphere of consumerism and public availability, leads to an altered perception of women as enjoyment objects. Portraying a beautiful woman as always ready and willing completely neglects her choices in sexuality and tears down the fabric of consent in our society. The person depicted in this advertisement could be a virgin or completely celibate; just because she is considered pretty does not warrant judgment about what choices she makes with her sex life. This ad only reinforces the mentality that sexually violating women, both verbally and physically, is socially acceptable and encourages this same mentality in the younger generations.

The objectification and mentality of using women like a car exposes the consumerism in this country and how its grasps have fallen over even the usage and discarding of women. As a society, our perception of fast purchases has become synonymous with our sexism. This unveils the detrimental effects our economic system has on other issues – a comorbidity which can be seen in multiple other social problems we face in the Western world, such as relentless classism and its strong ties to racism.

The majority of women viewing this ad, however, would most likely be repulsed by its imagery and would not be enticed to buy a BMW. So, how could this ad have gotten past BMW’s review board if it polarized half of the audience from buying their products? This would be a counterintuitive move for a company that appeals both men and women— and that’s the catch: I don’t think it does. It seems that BMW made this decision based on the notion that only men would buy their cars, and the opinions of women was irrelevant in terms of sales. Pushing this concept even deeper, it may be that BMW doesn’t even consider the majority of women as potential buyers. Even now, in 21st century America and Europe, the effects of a male dominant society can be seen in ads like this. The mentality that women would never buy a car without their husbands’ permission still taints even the largest, most successful manufacturers to the core.


Works Cited

BMW Hellas. You know you’re not the first. BMW, 2008, retrieved 7 April 2021 from i.insider.com/51545499ecad04b50f00000f.

Green, Dominic. “The 10 Sleaziest Ads of The Century.” Business Insider, 30 Mar. 2013, www.businessinsider.com/sleaziest-car-ads-of-the-21st-century-2013-3.

The Hate We Give: A Defense of the Misguided

by Hassaan Qaiser, April 17, 2021

Trumps’ presidency has finally come to an end. As we look forward to the new policies Biden will introduce in 2021, it’s important to reflect on the state of the country as it is. Trump was very open during his term and never held back on his beliefs. Ever since the capital attack on January 6th, the hate for Trump supporters has only grown and enraged other liberal-leaning parties. However, it’s important to answer the question as to whether or not the hate some of these Trump supporters receive is justified?

In 2016, Trump had just under 63 million votes (“2016 Election Results”). While in 2020, he had increased his voter base to  over 74 million (Lindsay). Thirteen million more people had decided that Trump was worth their vote and should continue his presidency into a second term, but were these people always conservative? Conservative groups have been on the rise ever since 2016, and more people find themselves lost in conspiracy theories (Page). Groups such as QAnon continue to mislead countless Americans as to what liberals and the Democratic Party actually do.

There have been many stories about family members reading articles online, becoming infatuated with and lost in conspiracy theories. When they try to reach out to their family members, they are ultimately cast out, because what they believe is unrealistic. An uncle, a distant cousin, a grandmother can fall victim to many of these ideas and find themselves voting for Trump based on the “legitimate” articles they read. Ultimately, I believe that many Trump supporters are just unsatisfied with the position that their life is in. These conspiracy theory blogs and articles give hope to people struggling with their lives that they matter and they have a greater purpose. This is especially prevalent among Trump supporters because they are very passionate about their beliefs. Despite this, these people have only been inspired with false passion because they want to believe they can actually control something in their lives. It’s almost a form of acceptable brainwashing.

Asides from the shame and humility, the people exposed to these groups are in greater danger than they think. The first step to getting indoctrinated into these ideas is social media, but eventually they evolve into protests. It won’t be surprising if these misguided Americans get together to host another capital attack for the sake of another conspiracy posted online. The worst case for these supporters is when they encounter something they cannot get back from, as is the case of Rosanne Boyland, a Trump supporter in the capitol riots that was trampled to death. Many liberal-leaning parties are quick to make jokes about the sign “Don’t Tread On Me” she was carrying, while the conservatives hold her up as a martyr, but that’s not who she was (“Woman Trampled in Capitol Riots Had ‘Don’t Tread on Me’ Flag”). Ms. Boyland was a wife, a sister in law, a daughter, and a sibling. Her family “begged her not to go”, but the conspiracy she found online was enough to grip her soul (Thanawala). What she thought was right, was merely misinformation: an idea that she needed to hear to make sense of the world. As the new generation of parents, teachers, and academics, we need to make sure people like Ms.Boyland are not alone, spending time with them, making sure they don’t find themselves looking for meaning on the dark corners of the internet. If we don’t, it’s only a matter of time before they fall even deeper into the sea of lies.


Works Cited

“2016 Election Results: President Live Map by State, Real-Time Voting Updates.” Election Hub, POLITICO, 13 Dec. 2016, 1:57 PM, www.politico.com/2016-election/results/map/president/.

Lindsay, James M. “The 2020 Election by the Numbers.” Council on Foreign Relations, 15 Dec. 2020, 5:00 PM, www.cfr.org/blog/2020-election-numbers.

Page, Clarence. “Column: The Rise of QAnon Isn’t Surprising. Americans Have Long Been Sucked into Conspiracy Theories.” Chicago Tribune, 20 Oct. 2020, www.chicagotribune.com/columns/clarence-page/ct-column-qanon-trump-pizzagate-page-20201020-vsthh5uotfdyno2x44t5otvvgq-story.html.

Thanawala, Sudhin, et al. “Rosanne Boyland, Trump Supporter Who Died, Followed QAnon Conspiracy, Family Says.” USA Today, 13 Jan. 2021, www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2021/01/09/rosanne-boyland-trump-supporter-who-died-followed-qanon-family/6608289002/.

“Woman Trampled in Capitol Riots Had ‘Don’t Tread on Me’ Flag.” Opera News, www.dailyadvent.com/news/08e870a26375c58cdebe405a58e917d5-Woman-trampled-in-Capitol-riots-had-dont-tread-on-me-flag.

An analysis of racial paradigms and ethnic projects in America

by Sanjana Sankaran, April 14, 2021 

Vilna Bashi-Treitler, The Ethnic Project: Transforming Racial Fiction into Ethnic Factions

Bashi-Treitler begins chapter three by answering the question, “How are ethnic groups racialized in the United States?” (Bashi-Treitler 2013: 44). She begins by discussing the three major racial paradigms that came about, starting in Europe and later in North America. The first racial paradigm started in England with the Irish. The first English colonization occurred in Ireland. The English despised their pastoral culture, viewed them as heathens, and instilled several discriminatory laws such as marriage bans, and enslavement. This racialized thinking was built on preexisting ideas of hierarchy and classism based on the feudal system of medieval times (Bashi-Treitler 2013). After the English began settlements in America, the second racial paradigm was developed: Native Americans. The odious views of the Irish were then reflected onto Native Americans. What started as Native Americans helping English settlers survive eventually led to the ill-treatment of indigenous people, stealing of lands, and genocide by the English due to racialized thinking. After the development of colonies, African Americans became the third racial paradigm (Bashi-Treitler 2013). 

Up until this point, race was a mere social experiment, but it was only when American colonists brought African American slaves to the New World did this experiment transform into a reality. African Americans now became the new basis, and still are to this day, of the racial hierarchy. Bashi-Trietler states that slaves were not slaves because they were black, but rather they became black after they became slaves. Elite white colonizers used racialized thinking to rationalize their desire for land, riches, and cheap labor. In the late 1600s to 1700s elite whites colonizers, in an attempt to subdue claims to power and land from Native Americans, ethnic whites such as Italians and Irish were now considered white in the racial hierarchy. With their status changed, the Irish and Italians would no longer try to protest against British colonizers with natives. While these groups may have still been discriminated against, in the context of the racial hierarchy, being closer to the top is always better than being on the bottom.  In the past, religious conversions could move ethnic people up in the hierarchy, but this could no longer be used to stop racial inequality and the mechanisms of racial politiculture (Bashi-Treitler 2013). From now on, one was either born white or was considered not white at all. Bashi-Treitlet then states that “When ‘white’ is fully formed as the category at the hierarchy’s topmost position, race is systematic, paradigmatic, and unmistakably North American” (Bashi-Treitler 2013: 52). 

At this point, Bashi-Treitler has established that Race and the rules that come with this construct are completely fictional, but they are still able to persist. She states the reason for this is due to the “systematic and societal support for the structure (or paradigm) of racial/racist thought” (Bashi-Treitler 2013: 59). One of the roots for the persistence of racism was internalized shame for those who accepted their higher status and shame associated with those who went against this racial thinking. There were not enough white allies who chose to stand up against this racial hegemony. As other ethnic groups began to assimilate into white culture, they still faced racial slurs and racial bias. She ends by saying that systemic racism persists not only because of the white group, but also due to the competition amongst all groups in this racial hierarchy. Any BIPOC group aims to stay away from the bottom of the racial hierarchy and be higher than other groups. In order to do this, groups that are not literally white have to find methods to assimilate such as ignoring key cultural aspects of their lives and adopting aspects of white culture, thus acknowledging white dominance. Bashi-Treitler states that all ethnic groups have feelings of superiority, differences from other groups, privilege, and fear of loss of their position in the hierarchy (Bashi-Treitler 2013). If this is recognized amongst all groups the problems of systemic racism can begin to get addressed.   

Many parts of this reading stood out to me, for instance, when Bashi-Treitler states that blackness was developed as a result of slavery. In my history classes, I have always been taught that that Americans and Western Europeans brought African Americans as slaves due to their black skin. However, we had never discussed the true motivations for slavery and how that brand of slavery evolved into anti-black rhetoric. At first, I found it a bit confusing due to my preexisting knowledge of slavery, but now I agree with Bashi-Treitler and understand that blackness was an idea that was created for labor and land. The racialized thinking of how we view blacks now came from the idea that we view them as the bottom of the hierarchy, expendable, and unworthy. 

Another aspect that I found interesting is when Bashi-Treitler states that all groups take part in the racialized hierarchy and each group vyes to be at the top. Before taking Racism and Ethnic Relations, I had naively believed that only white people can be racist and that the problems of systemic racism are rooted in the racialized mindset of white lawmakers. I now see that it is much larger than that. Not only can anyone have racist thinking, but anyone can feel this way to avoid the severe discrimination and societal disapproval that people at the bottom of the hierarchy face. When thinking about my own life, I know several Indians who are pro-Trump and anti-BLM because they feel that the social standing of black people is black people’s fault, In the process, Indians fall prey to the ideas of racial hegemony to avoid discrimination. However, what they do not realize is that Bashi-Treitler was right when she said that “Whiteness is a club you cannot marry into or join through naturalization; whiteness can only be bestowed. In the racialized United States of America, whiteness is the only attribute that really counts” (Bashi-Treitler 2013: 54). 

When trying to understand the racist ideologies of white supremacists and those of other cultures, I can now understand what Bashi-Treitler meant when she stated that whiteness is kept up because of shame. Whenever we hear the arguments of Trump supporters, for instance, they always say that society has become too politically correct. These people grew up believing that associating with BIPOC people and believing in ideas of equality brought about shame to them and their community. They may have also felt internalized shame because a majority of the population are not white supremacists. When Trump rose to power, this man, normalized open acts of racism, exposing the racialized mindset that was already present. 

Cover Page (Bashi-Treitler 2013)

References

Bashi, Treitler, Vilna. The Ethnic Project: Transforming Racial Fiction into Ethnic Factions, Stanford University Press, 2013. ProQuest Ebook Central, https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/sunysb-ebooks/detail.action?docID=1324242.

Gentrification: A Call For Reform or a Negative Acceptance?

by Iqra Ishrat, April 9, 2021

According to experts from Brookings Institute, gentrification is “the process of neighborhood change that results in the replacement of lower income residents with higher income ones” (Kennedy & Leonard, 2001), and has existed in United States urban centers since the 1970s (Fox, 2013). Since then, it has been changing communities, populations, developments, and professional opportunities in cities. According to statistics presented by population researcher Mark R. Montgomery, “During the period 2000-2024, the world’s total population is projected to grow by 1.76 billion persons, with some 86% of this growth expected to take place in the cities and towns…” (Montgomery, 2008). With populations increasing and more people moving into cities, some claim that gentrification can lead to health improvements, better education, lower crime rates, and more refined neighborhoods. However, it also leads to displacement of people, higher rent-prices, and animosity between inhabitants. These consequences and setbacks raise a question: do the benefits of gentrification outweigh the toll put onto original residents in the United States? Considering economic and political lenses along with perspectives of old residents, new wealthier inhabitants, researchers, and other community members in cities, gentrification is necessary for cities to develop and improve.

A major economic problem of gentrification is the cost of rent, which is increasing for former residents. Data from the US Census shows that in 1990, the median value of owner-occupied housing in central cities was 127,589 dollars and later in 2010 jumped to 184,839 dollars (Ellen, Horn, & Reed, 2017). That is a major price change of 57,250 dollars; many old residents are unable to pay for new, expensive housing, forcing them to leave. Along with increasing prices for housing in gentrifying cities, rent has also increased throughout the United States from 2000 to 2016. US Census data gathered by the Institute for Policy & Social Research shows that in states with many gentrifying cities like New York or Connecticut, the rent prices nearly doubled to over a thousand dollars per month (Institute for Policy & Social Research, 2018). Clearly, with such high changes in rent price, old residents do not have the wealth to afford increasing rent or house costs, forcing tenants to leave their cities.

Many old residents are angered with the inflating prices of housing. Since the prices keep increasing, people are being displaced from their communities. In other words, people are forced to move out to different neighborhoods since they cannot afford the current costs of living. Viewing the perspective of these old residents, they complain of the rent price rise due to gentrification. In an online newspaper entitled The Guardian, author Franseca Perry mentioned the opinion of a homeowner in Silicon Valley, “My entire family has left over the years to more affordable places for the working class… People are casually displaced every day and $1,000 a month rent hikes are not uncommon” (Perry, 2016). This view indicates that not all individuals can cope with economic changes occurring in gentrifying cities.

As the cost of living in cities is increasing, so are the cities’ tax revenues since homes have more value and wealthier inhabitants are moving in. Although this may promote displacement of the poor, it has many benefits that are necessary for cities. According to experts Maureen Kennedy and Paul Leonard (2001) from Brookings Institute, with the tax revenue increasing and more affluent individuals present, a city can spend more money to make itself vibrant, poverty rates can be decentralized, and commercial activity can be promoted. Thus, with more money, services can be added to revitalize the dull cities, and the old streets and broken-down residence cities can be cleaned and replaced with much needed improved housing. At the same time, new residents moving in can bring new customers to old businesses using their purchasing power and can also promote the development of new businesses, benefiting the economy. Overall, the better economy and increased number of wealthy occupants leads to decentralized poverty rates. According to the perspective of a community director in Cleveland, “I know it’s not politically correct, but with an average poverty rate of 42 percent, what my target neighborhoods need is a little gentrification” (Kennedy & Leonard, 2001). Although many old inhabitants in cities are displaced through gentrification, it will lead to much needed prosperity in neighborhoods and contribute to a more stabilized economy.

Additionally, while many residents have been displaced through the process of gentrification, studies found that the displacement may have been beneficial, to promote economics as mentioned previously, but also helpful to those that were forced to leave. In a large survey of five cities addressed by Professor of Economics Stephen Sheppard at Williams College, “displaced residents did not live in worse conditions following their moves. The majority of the displaced reported increased levels of satisfaction with their home and neighborhood and commute times were more likely to decrease after the move” (Sheppard, 2012). In other words, even though people couldn’t afford to live in their old neighborhoods, they are being moved to cities with better conditions where they can live their lives. Because of wealthier inhabitants, cities will have the benefit of a stronger economy; at the same time, old residents who cannot continue to afford the lifestyle get to live more comfortably when they move out to a new neighborhood.

Nevertheless, with changes occurring in cities through gentrification, animosity between residents is bound to occur. Specifically, the old residents are unhappy with the new wealthier individuals moving in. According to Elizabeth M. Kirkland who has a Juris Doctor degree and has focused on systemic racism at the Race Relations Institute of Fisk University, “the pre-gentrified neighborhood is inhabited mostly by African Americans or other people of color, and the in-movers are typically white” (Kirkland, 2008). Often, old residents of a certain ethnicity are unhappy with new groups moving in since they feel that their hometowns are being breached by people that will steal their city. Social Researchers Victoria F. Burns, Jean-Pierre Lavoie, and Damaris Rose interviewed elderly people in gentrifying cities on their thoughts of new individuals moving in. One interviewee, an 85-year-old woman, stated, “We ask ourselves where we are. I don’t like it. They are invading us…they are going to take everything from us… all the businesses; it’s them who are running them” (Burns, Lavoie, & Rose, 2012). Hence, it is important to note that community changes are not compensated within enlivening cities.

View of American poet Richard Blanco is similar to those unhappy with changes in the community due to gentrification. In his poem, “Looking for The Gulf Motel”, Blanco describes the changes that took place to his old neighborhood in Marco Island, Florida, and he wishes it was still the same as then:

“I am thirty-eight, driving up Collier Boulevard, looking for The Gulf Motel, for everything that should still be, but isn’t. I want to blame the condos, their shadows for ruining the beach and my past, I want to chase the snowbirds away with their tacky mansions and yachts, I want to turn the golf courses back into mangroves, I want to find The Gulf Motel exactly as it was and pretend for a moment, nothing lost is lost.” (Blanco, 2012)

In his poem, Blanco does not appreciate how everything that once was is gone. All the old buildings, scenes, and history important to him in Marco Island are gone; resembling the theme of change that is present in gentrification. This shows that not all will appreciate the changes done through revitalization of a city, comparable to the woman quoted earlier believing her community was invaded.

However, gentrification can decrease integration, or, race-based segregation in schools. Overall, with different-raced inhabitants moving in, gentrification leads to more diverse populations in schools. Professor of Law and co-founder of Perception Institute which focuses on researching social problems and creating solutions based on the research, Rachel D. Godsil wrote a paper on segregation in schools and how gentrification can help. In her paper, she states, “Diversity has been shown to play a critical role in spurring innovation and rigorous thinking” (Godsil, 2019). Simply, gentrification leads to interaction between diverse peoples, which ultimately encourages stronger thoughts and better relationships in schools. Also, schools can provide better education since they will have better funding due to increased tax revenue from wealthier inhabitants. With this money, supplies such as student recourses and/or technology can be added to a school district. So, with gentrification of cities comes the benefit of a better education due to greater diversity and increased funding. While this may not solve the problem of preserving communities and their history, it can ease tensions and lead to a brighter and more cooperative neighborhood.

When cities are re-developed through gentrification, health norms can be increased. Health conditions are typically bad in pre-gentrified cities due to low city budgets not being able to afford adequate standards. As stated by researchers Joseph Gibbons, Michael Barton, and Elizabeth Brault from the Department of Sociology in San Diego State University (2018), low income communities lack healthy food options, quality healthcare, and park space. Additionally, due to poverty in the cities, there are environmental factors that weaken residents’ health; physical examples such as living in broken and cramped homes, and social examples being the witnessing of depressed, drunk individuals on the streets (Gibbons, Barton, & Brault, 2018). Therefore, when communities described as such go through gentrification, improved healthcare is available, along with the availability of leisurely activities like community parks, overall helping to improve the health standards.

Along with better health for a community, crime rate can also decrease. Specifically, personal and violent crime rates tend to decrease in gentrifying cities. The United States Bureau of Justice Statistics defines personal crimes as “Rape, sexual assault, personal robbery, assault, purse snatching, and pocket picking” (Bureau of Justice Statistics, n.d.). Basically, it is any crime that may harm an individual. In a large study done that analyzed fourteen gentrifying neighborhoods by researcher Scott C. McDonald, it was found that as new wealthier inhabitants were moving in while cities were being changed, personal crimes overall decreased (McDonald, 1986). Recent statistics provided by the US Census also highlight the same results as McDonalds’ research. According to the data, in 1988 there were 13.5 violent crimes occurring per 1,000 population; but later in 2008, dropped down to a mean of only 8.9 violent crimes in the same population (Ellen, Horn, & Reed, 2017). This indicates that crime is reduced overall through gentrification and cities in the United States become safer.

Unfortunately, the uncontrolled gentrification process may not be able to maintain cities the way older residents prefer, but many positive and necessary changes in health, economics, safety, education, and revitalization occur to improve cities. However, improvements can be made to the gentrification process so that it doesn’t harm old residents of the cities as much. Currently, methods are used to ease gentrification and to keep the number of people being displaced low. Some methods mentioned by Kennedy and Leonard are, “tax abatements, housing trust funds, job linkage efforts, linkage fee programs, rent control, and so on” (Kennedy & Leonard, 2001). These methods allow more individuals to cope with economic changes occurring and they increase the number of old residents able to remain in cities. The goal is to achieve “equitable development”, described by the United States Environmental Protection Agency as “an approach for meeting the needs of underserved communities… It is increasingly considered an effective place-based action for creating strong and livable communities” (United States Environmental Protection Agency, n.d.). In other words, it was an attempt to make things fairer to old residents in gentrifying cities and to mitigate the detriments in the gentrification process overall.

First, it would be necessary to strengthen the relationships of community members so that they can devise a plan together. Cooperation would be important between different groups and communities within a city. “Strategies can and should be supported, implemented and funded by regional, city, private sector, non-profit sector and philanthropic interests” (Kennedy & Leonard, 2001). All these different groups coming together would be important to a city because they can help directly influence the outcome of the gentrification process. Through the various studies Godsil analyzed in her paper, she claims, “Studies have found a link between the quality of the informal interactions with diverse peers and analytical problem-solving and complex thinking skills (Godsil, 2019). If there is unity, diversity, and problem solving, different groups sharing their ideas would be highly effective.

Second, it would be required that all groups taking part have a common goal and view in mind. All people would need to know exactly what the purpose is for the city and how it is planned to achieve that goal. According to Kennedy and Leonard, working towards a common goal is not only beneficial since it creates a sense of trust, but it also allows for securing of land and homes for people through the communication of public and private sector leaders (Kennedy & Leonard, 2001).

Finally, once there is a common goal, work needs to be done to implement the desirable changes. This means policies may need to adjust, home development plans must go into effect, negotiations between leaders should occur, and overall taxes must be used effectively. If the entire process of gentrification occurs in this way, there will be far less drawbacks to it. Through this entire process, the necessity of gentrification will be revealed since it may bring positive changes to neighborhoods, bringing far more benefits than drawbacks through a much-needed stronger economy, better health conditions, lower crime rates, improved education, and most importantly, a united community.


References

Blanco, R. (2012). Looking for the gulf motel. In R. Blanco (Author), Pitt Poetry Series: Looking for the Gulf Motel (pp. 1-3). Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press. (Original work published 2012)

Burns, V. F., Lavoie, J. P., & Rose, D. (2011). Revisiting the role of neighbourhood change in social exclusion and inclusion of older people. Journal of aging research, 2012, https://doi.org/10.1155/2012/148287

Bureau of Justice Statistics. (n.d.). Terms & definitions: Crime type. Retrieved March 25, 2019, from Bureau of Justice Statistics website: https://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=tdtp&tid=3

Ellen, I. G., Horn, K. M., & Reed, D. (2017, March 1). Has falling crime invited gentrification? Retrieved from Social Science Research Network database. (Accession No. http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2930242)

Fox, J. C. (2013). Urban Renewal. In K. L. Lerner, B. W. Lerner, & S. Benson (Eds.), Human Geography: People and the Environment (Vol. 2, pp. 653-656). Detroit, MI: Gale. Retrieved from http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/CX2062300256/SUIC?u=nysl_li_valleysc&sid=SUIC&xid=a418b775

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