Taylor Maness

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Two years later

Photo by Pooja Pasupula

Two years ago, an event unfolded that shook Charlotte to its core. Keith Lamont Scott was stopped by police officers when they saw him exit his car with a handgun. Authorities have said that Scott did not comply when officers commanded him to drop his weapon. This led Officer Brentley Vinson to use deadly force against him. Vinson shot and killed Scott in the Village at College Downs apartment complex parking lot, just outside of our very own campus. When the news of the shooting broke, protesting began across Charlotte. Protesters brought signs that said “Stop Killing Us” and “No Peace, No Justice.” Although initially participants wished for a peaceful protest, the crowd turned violent as night fell. People threw rocks and water bottles at police officers. There was also millions of dollars’ worth of damage done to property throughout Charlotte as well as loitering of many businesses. Officers and protesters were injured and one man, Justin Carr, was shot and killed by another civilian during the chaos. Police resulted to drastic measures to control the crowd, including the use of tear gas. The violence lasted for two nights following the incident. The third night of protesting was conducted in a far more peaceful manner.

Thorough investigations were done to determine if Vinson acted lawfully in the situation. In November 2016, the prosecutors working on the case concluded that Vinson’s actions were justified. This ruling angered many of Charlotte’s citizens and came as a disappointment to Scott’s family.

It’s been almost two years since this tragedy occurred, but many others have taken its place. We are stuck in a cycle of discrimination, violence and retaliation that seems nearly impossible to get out of. Although Charlotte has been facing anger and criminality for many years, there does not seem to be any signs of it slowing down. Have we done anything to remedy the cruelty? What can we do to ensure Charlotte’s future is safe? Is there any fixing our community at all?

Charlotte would not be where it is today without our police officers. Many of our officers dedicate their entire lives to protecting us and ensuring that we live in a city that is safe and free of fear. For these heroes, we should be appreciative. Unfortunately, like most things in life, there are exceptions. Aside from this particular case, there have been several other accounts of police violence in Charlotte. Sadly, nothing has changed. Many officials not only shy away from speaking about this tragedy, but they shy away from the issue of police brutality as a whole. It is much easier to try and sweep it under the rug and let people try to forget about it, but there has to be a change. Police brutality is just as prevalent today as it was then. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 800 people die every year while being put under arrest. Government officials should feel compelled to take action against these sort of crimes. If not, we risk living in a community where we are afraid of the people who we are supposed to trust the most.

The riots that broke out were incredibly violent and left over 40 civilians and officers injured. This should be a testament to how broken the communication is between the citizens of Charlotte, law enforcement and government officials. The protests began peacefully. Charlotte citizens wanted to show their respect for Scott as well as voice their discontent toward what happened. Unfortunately, the riots broke out within a few hours, ruining any chance at having an untroubled protest. The police officers who were in Charlotte during the rioting resulted to using great force against civilians. This in itself is a tragedy. The first step in trying to solve any of Charlotte’s problems is through open communication. If the protests had stayed in a civil manner, officers and government officials would have been able to fully understand the meaning behind the outrage and would have been able to fully digest the opinions of Charlotte citizens. The violence was in no way constructive; it just led to more disconnection. Everything from peaceful protests, calling government officials and even writing letters are much better ways to voice concern in a cordial way. I believe that most of our officers and government officials want the best for us and want to hear what we have to say. We just have to find ways to communicate that strengthen the bond between us. This is the only way we can begin to mend our tattered relationship and begin to make progress in solving the issues that plague our city.

This is a time of remembrance, reflection and reform. As we look back at the tragedy that unfolded two years ago, we need to acknowledge that the issues that presented themselves then still occur to this day. What happened to Scott was a devastation. The riots that followed just threw gasoline onto an already blazing fire. There is still animosity between civilians and officers. There is still a stark line between civilians and government officials. There is still disunity between civilians and other civilians. If we really want to start seeing things change in our city, we have to bridge the gap between civilians, officers and government officials. This is the only way we can begin to see an end to all of the terror that has plagued Charlotte for so long.

A Little Rouge

The cosmetics industry has evolved into an industry worth over and estimated $80 billion, and growing. Makeup has been around for thousands of years, but with the rise of social media and millennial’s craving for self-expression, the cosmetic industry is booming. Although the cosmetics industry continues to swell, so does the controversy surrounding it. Cosmetic advertising has been under scrutiny for years. The claims that people, women especially, are being targeted and manipulated have been well publicized. Not only does the cosmetic industry catch flack, so do makeup wearers themselves. Some claim that the use of makeup promotes vanity or is a way to hide underlying self-esteem issues. It can be easy to jump to conclusions of people among first meeting them, but one shouldn’t infer such things about someone just because they have a little rouge on their cheeks. There is so much more to wearing makeup than meets the Cat Eye.

There is an element of empowerment that goes along with wearing makeup. Though some may want to argue the opposite, closer examination of what empowerment is may set things in place. Empowerment is defined as: “authority or power given to someone to do something.” Makeup gives the opportunity to take control of personal appearance. How a person is presented to others, and how a person is presented to themselves, is in the hands of the individual. Having the ability to convey a personalized version of yourself to the world encapsulates what empowerment is. Men and women are given the choice be any version of themselves that they want to be.

Makeup is paint and your face is a blank canvas. This metaphor, often used by makeup enthusiasts, illustrates the link between makeup and creativity. People crave self-expression. We are constantly seeking out ways to project our true selves to the world. The Pew Research Center states that millennials especially crave self-expression and champion it in many different forms. With makeup, there are no limitations. The options for what individuals are capable of creating are infinite. People can tap into the creative centers that aren’t normally permitted in everyday life. This can be incredibly therapeutic for these individuals. Having makeup as an outlet can bring some much-needed artistic relief to one’s how seldom get the chance foster it.

Some claim that the use of makeup promotes vanity. This, to a certain degree, is true. Makeup is worn to promote confidence in one’s self. What, may I ask, is wrong with that? Having a positive self-attitude is incredibly important for a person to have a happy, healthy life. Also, as much as we hate to admit it, people are vain by nature. Nicholas Epley, Professor of Behavioral Science at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, believes that there are varying degrees of self-centeredness, and every person fits on some part of this scale. How is wearing makeup any different from picking out clothes that match or mwwaking sure a necktie is adequately tied? They are all done to ensure we look and feel our best. This shouldn’t be considered vanity. It’s the simple act of taking pride in your appearance.

Before the outcries about the patriarchy begin, it’s worth noting that both sides have a plausible case.  Yes, the cosmetics industry has gone out of its way to convince women and men that makeup is a necessity. Billions of dollars are spent every year to convince the public that they aren’t beautiful. This psychological manipulation is what turns makeup into something harmful. Images are conveyed to the public that are unattainable and massively distorted. Advertisers try to set a narrow standard of beauty and convince consumers that they must conform to that. This can absolutely destroy a person’s self-esteem. This is when a person’s relationship with makeup can turn into an unhealthy one.

This article isn’t defending the makeup industry itself, but supporting a person’s choice to use makeup as a way to express individuality. It is important to realize that makeup shouldn’t be used as a crutch. Beauty is such a broad term. To say that there is only one way to be considered beautiful is absurd. It’s completely subjective and means a different thing to every person. The narrow beauty standards that cosmetic advertisers portray to the public are just wrong. Makeup should not be a substitute for a healthy self-esteem.  Every person is beautiful as they are. Makeup can be a great confidence booster, but self-love should always be in place whether you are wearing makeup or not.

The debate surrounding makeup had been going on for as long as makeup has existed. What some see as a vapid, self-indulgent ritual, others see as the only way to express themselves. Makeup can offer so much more than just a little bit of shimmer. It offers individuals the opportunity to take control of the way they look in a way that is rather creative and empowering. Although applying makeup can be restorative for some, a positive self-image should always be in place.

The “grade A” problem

You stay awake all night to study, forgo social activities and your grades have become the number one thing on your priorities list. Some might consider you to be the epitome of a proactive student. Others may try to encourage your “dedication.” I, on the other hand, would caution you to stop. College is an incredibly hectic, stressful time. There’s no getting around that. The problem is how we are choosing to deal with it. We have become so accustomed to the chaos we have to come see the behaviors above as normal. In reality, it’s far from normal.  At what point do you go from being a productive student, to putting your well-being at risk? This fine line that is often crossed by college whose priorities have been skewed due to the pressures of college life. It seems like more and more people are putting their mental, social and physical health on the back-burner in order to make a few points higher on a test. We need to start realizing that no grade is worth throwing our basic human needs out the window.

One of the first things college students sacrifice in times of stress is sleep. As much as everyone would love to get in a full eight hours of sleep at night, sometimes this seems like an impossible goal to achieve. College students are all too familiar with staying up through the night just to get that last bit of studying in before a big exam. Problems arise when the occasional late night evolves into a continuous string of caffeine-fueled all-nighters. For many people this is even considered to be normal. This is a very disturbing pattern among college students. Depriving your body of sleep can be detrimental to your physical, emotional and psychological health. Students need to start prioritizing sleep over cramming for a test. It’s something your body needs to restore itself. Also, the motives behind these all-nighters are completely counterintuitive. There is actually a link between lack of sleep and for academic performance. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, students who frequently pull “all-nighters” tend to have lower GPA’s than students who get between six and eight hours of sleep. This just proves when you don’t put your health first, all aspects of your life will falter.

Balancing school and a social life is another difficult thing to manage during college. Many think of socializing as a frivolous activity.  It’s treated as if it’s something that can easily be done away with to make room for a few hours of extra studying. People tend to forget a healthy social life is critical for living a meaningful life. The Mayo Clinic states having a life rich in social activity can reduce stress levels, help individuals cope with trauma, and can even strengthen your immune system. We oftentimes forget how impactful social interactions are for our health. Aside from the numerous health benefits, there is a much deeper reason we should be more concerned with our social health. When we begin to isolate ourselves from family and friends, we are neglecting the most important things in in life. No grade will ever be worth the price of neglecting the ones you love. These are the things that make life worth living. Make it a priority to find time in your schedule to see your friends, call your parents and stay connected to the people you care about.

With exams, extra-curricular activities and job-searching, stress is bound to find its way into your life. This is just part of the college experience. In some cases, this can even benefit you. An article put out by the Berkley News recognizes acute stress as a way to keep the mind alert and boosts performance. The key word in this statement; however, is the word “acute.” This means that it is experienced in small quantities. Chronic high levels of stress can lead to fatigue, lack of concentration and, if severe enough, physical exhaustion. When we are only focused on our grades, stress levels can shoot through the roof. It’s important to realize that there is a difference between being concerned with academic performance, and being obsessed with it. When even the thought of al less-than-perfect grade brings you to the brink of a panic attack, there is a problem. Thinking about grades should not have a crippling effect on the body. At this point you aren’t concerned with learning, you’re concerned about a letter. Yes, grades are very important. They aren’t, however; worth making yourself go crazy. As hard as it may be to believe, your grades do not define who you are or who you will become. College is supposed to be a time when you find out about yourself and he world around you. Make sure you are exploring this side of the college experience, as well.

In closing, college life isn’t the cake-walk many people believe it is. There is constant pressure to succeed in everything we do. As tempting as it may be to let our health and well-being fall at the waist side for school, we need to fight against it. There is so much more to life than making a certain grade. We need to prioritize our health and well-being above anything else. This is the only way to live a happy life.

The “New” Kid

Think back to your freshman year. Remember the terrifying feeling of being surrounded by people you don’t know and not knowing how to get anywhere. Now, imagine having to do that twice. This might seem like an absolute nightmare to some, but it is the utter reality for all transfer students. The only difference is that the sense of community many freshmen have with each other does not exist among transfer students. It can be incredibly difficult having to start from scratch mid-way through your college career. There are many advisors and faculty that help assist transfer students academically. The focus is on making sure classes transfer over, the paperwork gets done and classes have been registered for. However, nobody seems to address the social issues some students face when transferring to a new school.

There is just something special about the friendships formed in college. When students begin their college career, they have four years to develop close knit relationships. They can bond over their struggles in the beginning and navigate their way through the uncertain times together. When you come in later, it seems as that the chance to form these types of relationships has passed. Everyone else has already established sturdy relationships and have had two years to bond over this crazy, weird college life.

As a student that transferred here this year, I can say that trying to make friends can be very difficult. It’s the issue of wanting to make friends, but having trouble connecting with others. All of the inside jokes and experiences that others have already shared are completely foreign to transfer students. An article put out The New York Times address how transfer students can feel excluded due to college’s stress on welcoming freshman specifically. “They [UNCC faculty] weren’t very specific about groups I get involved in,” said sophomore transfer student Alyssa Stanton. “I feel like that’s focused more on the freshmen.” Many different activities and parties are arranged to ensure people who enter as freshman feel accommodated. This is what kick-starts so many great friendships among new students. Many times, transfer students are not included in these types of events. Sometimes it seems that in order to make new friends as a transfer student, you have to put forth extra effort and assertiveness that other’s don’t have to. “I was so used to smaller schools, and now being in a bigger school, it’s a little harder to talk to people,” said current transfer student Soumaya Chaoui. It can be a bit exhausting after a while. Transfer students only have two years to try and create the connections that most people can form over four years. The thought that there could no way to form these once-in-a-lifetime friendships can be very discouraging. This can cause transfer students to feel isolated from the traditional students around them.

Soymaya Chaoui, transfer student at UNC Charlotte

This feeling of disconnectedness can even take a toll on transfer student’s mental health. “Psychological disorders peak in college,” said Eugene Beresin, Director of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Residency Training at Mass. General. He believes that every student is already vulnerable to mental health issues, but transfer students are particularly at risk. The stress of trying to fit in can cause some health issues that many people never even consider. Beresin says this can lead to problems as serious as mood and eating disorders, anxiety and the pressure to socialize. What people don’t realize is that being a transfer student is very difficult, and it feels like there is nobody around to talk to. It feels as if, because transfer students are older than the average freshman, it isn’t still acceptable to ask for help. This allows the feelings of anxiety and loneliness to build up until they develop into serious complications.

The number of students transferring to universities is on the rise; which is great. People are starting to become more familiar with students who never took the traditional college route and the landscape is becoming far more diverse because of it. “Here, I am able to find various people from various cultures,” said transfer student Vasanthi Nimmagadda, “which has been really good.” This is a positive step for the university. We should encourage anyone wishing to pursue an education at UNCC to transfer in. Even though this new educational pathway has become more prominent, that doesn’t mean everyone completely understands transfer students. There is still a stigmas placed on students who start transfer from different colleges, especially community colleges. Some believe that students transfer because they messed around I high school or simply weren’t smart enough to get into a university in the beginning. These assumptions are completely wrong. Students have many specific reasons for choosing different college paths. For me, the price of a university was much too high for me in the begging. Starting out at a community college allowed me to work and save money to come here for my junior year. Some may have family issues that need tending to, economic troubles or just need the extra time to figure out the right career path. Having a narrow minded view of transfer students needs to stop. Honestly, it hurts to think that some people put a negative annotation on transfer students. Everyone takes different paths in life, and they should all be respected.

Being a transfer student is tougher than you might imagine. There is a specific disconnect felt when you enter college later than everyone around you. It’s like trying to learn a song that everyone else is already playing. It is my hope that faculty and students can work together to figure out a way to accommodate starting transfer students. Feeling like an outsider can be really tough in the beginning. We need to make sure we’re here for one other. In the end, we’re all Niners.

The Great Condom Debate

With great sex comes great responsibility. Sexual safety is important for any relationship. There are plenty options to choose from when it comes to contraceptives. Couples could choose birth control pills, an IUD, abstinence and many others. As effective as these methods may be, there is one form of birth control that reigns supreme among college students. The condom. It will come as no surprise that many college students choose condoms as their favorable form of birth control. There is; however, one burning question that couples have. Should the man or the woman be buying the condoms? This seemingly simple question has raised quite a bit of debate among couples for years. Men are the ones who wear the condoms, so they should be in charge of buying them, right? Wrong. There has been a long standing myth that solely men should be supplying the condoms. The logic behind this is beyond flawed. To say that the men are “in charge” of having the condoms is the equivalent of saying that men are “in charge” of sexual safety. Purchasing condoms should not be a sign of masculinity. Gender should not even be a factor. This double standard could lead to unprotected sexual activity. If a situation arises where a man does not have condom on hand, there would no protection for the man or woman against pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases. Safe sex should be practiced by everyone. This isn’t just the simple act of buying condoms. It’s a matter of taking control of your own sex life. Being adequately prepared for sexual activity of any kind is a crucial part of a healthy sex life. Condoms are the most popular form of birth control among college aged people. It is reported; however, that many college students are foregoing birth control. A study done by the Sex Information and Education Council of Canada discovered that nearly 50% of sexually active college students aren’t using condoms at all. This is especially concerning considering college students make up for about half of STD cased. According to the Center for Disease Control, about 20 million new STD cases are reported every year. What’s especially chilling for us college folk is that half of these 20 million cases are from young people between the ages of 15 and 25. These facts aren’t thrown in here to scare you away from sex, but to highlight the importance for both men and women to be appropriately prepared. This doesn’t just protect you; it protects your partner, as well. What might cause such a commotion between couples over who should buy the condoms could just be the process of getting them.

 

The walk down the contraceptives aisle can be a daunting one. Many people could feel embarrassment, and even shame, over purchasing condoms. This is especially prevalent in women. The fear of being labeled as a “whore” or a “slut” stops women from feeling comfortable buying condoms. This is a societal issue that needs to be done away with. Not only should women feel comfortable buying condoms, they should feel encouraged to. It should be a liberating feeling to know that you are being sexually responsible. There should be no negative stigma placed on anyone taking the initiative to protect themselves, and their partner. Communication among partners is crucial when it comes to buying contraceptives of any kind. Condoms come in a vast array of sizes, brands and fits. It might seem easier to let the man buy the condoms simply to avoid a potentially awkward conversation. Avoiding these conversations could lead to a disconnection within the relationship. Talking to your partner about condoms should not be an uncomfortable situation. Couples should make an effort to sit and talk openly about sexual preferences; this would include condoms. This allows for a better understanding of what each person likes and dislikes. Being informed of these things about your partner leads to an overall openness and understanding in the relationship. These types of conversations are what create an intimacy between couples that stems well beyond just sexual activity. Both men and women should take responsibility for their sex lives. Now we can finally put this debate to bed. Who should be buying the condoms? Everyone.