Madison Dobrzenski

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Madison is the Editor-in-Chief for the Niner Times. She is a junior double majoring in Communication and Spanish, with a minor in Women’s and Gender Studies. Madison is from Fayetteville, North Carolina, so naturally she loves J. Cole and has seen his house more times than she can count. When she isn’t binge watching a TV show or writing for the Niner Times, she’s working at Mellow Mushroom, drinking iced coffee or attending a concert with her friends. For any inquiries, she can be reached at editor@ninertimes.com.

CMS’ Multicultural Debate

On Tuesday, January 23rd, I attended a Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board public hearing. They were discussing a revision to their multicultural clause, which describes different cultures and identities that are protected in the classroom. The revision would make the clause now include gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation. Of the roughly 30 people that spoke at the public hearing about this policy change, the vast majority of people were outraged that this policy had the slightest potential of being approved. Whether they were pastors or parents, almost every single person that spoke against the revision did so because of their religious values that they believed would be imposed upon by the teachings the policy would enforce. The multicultural policy that was already in place included education excellence regardless of race, religion, and natural origin. Some people had a problem with gender identity, gender expression or sexual orientation being compared to race, religion, or natural origin. The Rev. Flip Benham strongly disagreed with the revision, stating “You can’t make a moral wrong a civil right. Being black isn’t a sin. Being Chinese isn’t a sin. Homosexual sodomy is a sin.” The pastor also called out councilwoman Carol Sawyer for her sign at the women’s march and her activism, claiming that she is putting a political agenda in schools. The pastor got quite heated, and had to be taken out by security, as did a couple other citizens that were yelling during the hearing. The ironic thing about Rev. Flip Benham arguing that sexual orientation and gender identity shouldn’t be compared to race, religion, and natural origin, is that unlike the traits being proposed, religion is something you DO choose. Even if you were raised in a certain religion, someone made a conscious decision to participate in that religion at some point. The aspect of someone’s identity that really shouldn’t be compared, if any, is religion, however, it should still be protected, just like the other aspects of one’s identity. The people against the policy that were so heated that they had to be removed, or even the people with coherent and very thought out speeches, all were arguing essentially the same argument, and it’s pretty easy to logically argue against. The Rev. Flip Benham is just one example of the many pastors came to the podium quoting scripture, declaring the sinful nature of homosexuality and a “transgender lifestyle.” I totally understand if your religion is not okay with you being a member of the LGBTQ+ community, as a churchgoer of many years with a Catholic father and a Christian upbringing, I really do understand the inner conflict. However, no matter how much empathy I feel toward people who are just trying to do the right thing for their religion, I can’t understand, logically, how they can expect all of Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools to enforce their religion. Our country was founded on freedom of religion, and despite what people think, that means your religion will not be the same as everyone else’s. Another argument people brought up many times was that this would rob them of their chance to talk to their children about “sensitive moral questions.” Many parents were under the impression that their children would learn about gay sex, how to be transgender and things that would “confuse them.” I heard a parent say that students learn enough about human sexuality in health class. This policy doesn’t require teachings of “homosexual sodomy,” or anything of that nature. The fact people would confuse this policy with teachings of sodomy is ridiculous. Instead of thinking “this could confuse our children,” maybe they should say “oh, maybe if LGBTQ+ culture, history and information was taught like heterosexual culture, history and information, LGBTQ+ students would grow up to have lower rates of suicide, mental illness, and less issues accepting themselves. The policy is promising educational excellence regardless of race, color, religion, nationality, and now, thanks to the 7-2 vote for the revision, “gender identity/expression or sexual orientation.” That may be vague, and could possibly include teachings about the LGBTQ+ community, which would not be a bad thing, but that isn’t the debate that was being had at that public hearing, and people seemed to be blinded by their religion or anger to see that. They were too worried about other people’s values being taught. My friend Nikolai Mather, a UNC Charlotte student, invited me to the meeting. He came to the podium after many speakers against the policy change, trying to tell everyone the ultimate reason we were even having the discussion: “Let me remind all y’all why we’re here and why this proposal was recommended: to protect trans kids.” He went on to describe “threats, name calling and discrimination from peers and teachers on a daily basis,” that he received when he came out as a trans man. No one should have to go through that, despite what your values are. Nikolai made that point, and luckily, the policy committee saw it that way too. The most important thing this policy includes is protection for kids. It protects and encourages an education for students regardless of their identity and all that could encompass. It requires that teachers, peers and administration treat each student’s education equally and with respect. For people who were holding signs about loving their children and shouting about it so much, I can’t fathom how they would be against such a thing.

H&M: The Dumbest Monkeys in the Jungle

 

When I first saw the H&M ad of the black child in the “coolest monkey in the jungle” hoodie on twitter, my first thought was “how did no one catch this?” I wanted to have the opinion “I’d like to think this was a coincidence.” I thought “I have no way of knowing whether or not this was intentional, but I’d like to think it wasn’t.” However, the problem with me thinking that is that it doesn’t address the fact that “unintentional” racism is unacceptable. Going into 2018, we need to be aware, and make others aware that these sorts of “accidents” aren’t excusable anymore. Even if this was an accident on H&M’s part, someone at that photoshoot should have said something before that ad was put out, and the fact that no one did is an issue on its own. It comes with any “ism”, when you’re so used to it, that you don’t notice it, that’s a problem. We are so accustomed to racism and sexism (and many other forms of prejudice and oppression) that we sometimes don’t even notice them in pop culture. So many movies, advertisements, or tv shows have stereotypical characters and make sexist or racist jokes. The idea of “accidental” or “unintentional” racism means that as a society, we are sometimes not conscious enough about what we say or produce. H&M wasn’t conscious enough in the ads they were putting out, and understandably, it upset people. The issue isn’t the hoodie itself, “coolest monkey in the jungle” is a cute idea for a children’s sweatshirt. The issue is that it was put on a black child, and no one thought “oh, this might come off as racist?” The mother of the model, Terry Mango, said “if I bought that jumper and put it on him and posted it on my pages, would that make me racist? I get peoples opinion, but they are not mine.” The answer is no, it wouldn’t. The sweatshirt itself isn’t the problem, and it would be a completely different story if the model put it on himself, but he didn’t. While “unintentional” racism is certainly something to discuss and recognize, it is the least of our issues right now.

 

In our current political climate, we have much bigger fish to fry. As a country, as a society, and in the world, we have much bigger forms of racism to protest over. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely think you shouldn’t shop at H&M. But not just because of their racist ad. I also don’t think you should shop at Gap, Old Navy, or Forever 21. Have you ever wondered how these companies’ clothes are so affordable? It’s because they are made in countries such as Cambodia, Bangaldesh, Myanmar, and even America, in outrageous working conditions, by very young women (the majority of these workers are women) and for unlivable wages. These sweatshops are extremely hot, causing workers to fall out from working long hours in unbearable heat. These sweatshops do not follow normal labor laws; the workers are forced to work 60-100 hour weeks, in hot and unsafe conditions, for well under minimum wage. After the racist ad they put out, they have since hired a “diversity leader.” “The recent incident was entirely unintentional, but it demonstrates so clearly how big our responsibility is as a global brand. We have reached out, around the world, inside and outside H&M to get feedback.” was included in their statement . Their unethical working environments, however, have been recognized, but not fixed. In 2013, the Rana Plaza factory collapsed in Bangladesh, killing roughly over a thousand workers. This caused many companies to agree to make a commitment to providing safe working environments for the workers making their clothes, H&M included. H&M was the first and largest company to sign the 2013 Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh. Sadly, according to the Asia Floor Wage Alliance, there has barely been any progress made. “Due to failed compliance with the accord, 78,842 garment workers in Bangladesh continue to produce garments for H&M in buildings without fire exits.” A report done by the Clean Clothes campaign, only looking at H&M’s best factories since the collapse in 2013, has also shown that progress has been incredibly slow. About 61% of those factories didn’t have fire exits that meet the Accord’s standards, and that number is far too high for how at-risk Bangladesh is for factory fires. Other risks included in the report were lockable doors, sliding doors, and collapsible gates. I’m not saying a racist ad isn’t a priority, or that unintentional racism is acceptable, because it isn’t. We need to watch our language and what comes natural to us, and that goes for companies as public as H&M. What I am saying is if H&M can’t keep their promise of providing safe working environments for the people that make their product, then their “unintentionally” racist ad should be the least of their worries, and the least of ours.

DACA dismemberment destroying dreams

On September 5, 2017, many Americans’ whole worlds were altered. Their idea of “home” was questioned and their idea of the “American dream” was threatened. President Trump decided to end DACA, The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. This immigration policy was established by Obama in 2012. A lot of people have formed their opinions on DACA based on their ignorance to what it is. DACA is an immigration policy that allowed for people that came here illegally at a certain age to remain here, considering this is where they grew up. It gave them the opportunity to work and start a life. In order to request DACA, one had to have resided in the United States from June 15, 2007 until present time, currently be in school or have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, or an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States, and not have been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or three or more misdemeanors.

The idea is that these young people, within the age range of 16 and 30, who pose no threat to society, will be allowed in this country because they came here illegally by their parents’ means, not their own. The automatic response for most people, as well as my own opinion, is to pity these people and their distress upon hearing the rescinding of DACA. However, I can understand the other side in some ways. When Obama initially established DACA, he did state that it was a “temporary fix.” Since he said that, that is what a lot of people are defending President Trump by saying. Now. The fact that President Trump is the one to push the end of this nonthreatening, compassionate policy is no surprise and just adds fuel to the growing fire of “we hate you, Trump.” I’ll admit, I look for any excuse to bash him, and I don’t have to look far. Why DACA? This policy wasn’t hurting anyone. This policy protected roughly 700,000 people from deportation, who are contributing members to society. Imagine being told that your home, where you grew up, is no longer your home. You can’t live here anymore, due to no fault of your own.

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I am privileged enough to not have experienced that, and I know most of us are, so I ask that you consider what it’s like to be a DREAMER in this political climate. Of all the immigration “policies” Donald Trump discussed in his campaign, building the wall, banning Muslims, the first immigration policy he goes for is DACA. Why? Not that I agree with the other “policies” he discussed, but why did he go for DACA first? The United States has a population of 323.1 million, so why rescind this policy that affects, in retrospect, such a small percentage of Americans? These are all questions I would love to pose to Trump himself, and frankly, I’m sure he wouldn’t have a solid answer, because it’s just another example of his racism, anti-Obama agenda, and lack of compassion. While the ending of this policy was announced in September, the most recent issue with the ending of DACA is that people did have the opportunity to renew their DACA by October 5. People rushed to get this done, only to have missed the deadline because of slow mail. Luckily, the Acting Secretary of Homeland Security, Elaine Duke, ordered U.S. Citizenship and Immigration services to accept late renewal applications, provided that the applcants provide proof that they sent them on time, and they were only late because of the postal service. I suppose that makes everything better. It doesn’t completely.

Ultimately, the issue behind DACA, DREAMERS, and immigration as a whole is the immigration process itself. The timeline is different depending on how you immigrate and why you come to the U.S. But the range for immigrating and becoming a citizen, according to the American Immigration Center, is less than a year to several years. Until the immigration process is fixed, we will have conflicts in America about how to “solve” these problems. The problem is that President Trump doesn’t know what he’s trying to fix. I am convinced that he just wants his followers to like him, approve of what he’s doing, and the way to do that is reverse anything Obama did while in office. That’s fine for President Trump, but I’d like if he kept his need to be liked out of the White House and out of immigration policies. I don’t think he understands how much he is messing with people’s lives, and I’m unsure if he will ever look past his privilege to try to, and that goes for the ending of this program, and anything he does in the future.

Shoulder to Shoulder

Photo Courtesy of Charlotte Cooper

On the first day of school at San Benito School in Hollister, California, around 50 girls and two boys were called to the office for violating dress code, for a rule that had not previously been enforced. Of those girls and boys, about 20 were sent home for wearing supposedly “revealing clothing,” because the administration wanted to “keep the kids safe.” Apparently, shoulders are “revealing,” and will affect one’s safety. High schoolers have never seen shoulders before. Girls’ senior pictures aren’t taken with off the shoulder black dress tops. Shoulders aren’t a completely nonsexual and innocent body part whatsoever. Shoulders are too tempting, provocative and revealing. How dare teenage girls wear off the shoulder tops in mid-August. Expecting students to follow a rule that you have not enforced previously is unrealistic and unfair. Consistency within school rules is a huge issue I have seen firsthand. At my uniform high school, we were not permitted to wear tan flats, only brown or black ones. My freshman year, this issue was never addressed. People would wear Sperries, tan flats, and other variations of shoes that weren’t necessarily “dress code appropriate,” but the administration and teachers never said anything about it. My junior year, students were being punished for wearing tan shoes. They weren’t sent home, but they would be given a warning, written up, or given detention. I had an issue with that at the time because they expected us to follow a rule that years before, they didn’t enforce. Students were being punished for something that was normal and accepted. You can’t expect a junior to suddenly adhere to rules that for the past two years, they haven’t had to follow. The same idea goes for these female students, except this time, the rule is enforced strictly with females, but not with males. This isn’t the first time a high school dress code has been an issue for female students, either. In August, 2015 in Illinois, four young women claimed that their school regulations were sexist and interfering with their high-school experience, for the same reason as the girls in Hollister, California: off the shoulder shirts. In April, a junior at Tom C. Clark High School in San Antonio, Texas, was asked to call her mom to bring her pants to change into because a school administrator deemed her dress too short. The bottom line, missed by some people, is that these school regulations are policing young women’s bodies, and not young men’s. In this situation in Hollister, California, 20 female students’ educations were interrupted because of their shoulders. Male and female students alike recognized that this was a sexist enforcement of the dress code, and because of that, some boys decided to wear shirts similar to the ones the girls were wearing the day they were sent home. Boys came to school donning off the shoulder tops, and if the rule was enforced as it was with the girls, these boys would have been sent home. The boys weren’t sent home. The boys’ educations were not affected by the protest, but they surely did attract attention. “A lot of people want to emphasize the male students’ part in this protest, which I respect, but the purpose of this whole thing was to protest sexism against female students,” Andrei Vladimirov, a male student at San Benito who participated in the protest said. The students that participated in this protest see this as a bigger issue than merely female students’ shirts. The issue is that we’ve seen issues of sexist enforcement of dress codes in high schools on many social media platforms, without valid defense. In San Benito School’s case, the administration’s defense was about safety. What kind of safety are they referring to? Whether a girl is showing her shoulders or not, harassing her would still be wrong, and if you can’t trust your teachers, male students, and administration to not keep their eyes off the girls’ shoulders and their hands off the shirt, then that’s a much bigger problem in itself. These boys that chose to protest acknowledged that. The issue here is much bigger than one girl’s shirt, or 20 girls’ shirts. The issue is about the girl whose mom is asked to leave work to bring her pants. The issue is about the girl whose sweater shows her collarbone-and apparently that is provocative. The issue is about the inconsistency in dress code enforcement. Whether it’s suddenly enforcing rules they didn’t previously, may that be a rule regulating shirts, shoes, or dresses, or whether it’s enforcing it for one gender and not the other, the inconsistency is unfair to the students who are merely there to get their education. In case anyone forgot, that is why we go to school.

Going Green: Plant-Based Dieting and it’s Effect on Climate Change

 I have been a vegetarian for two years. I have cut meat out of my diet because I want to do any simple thing I can that benefits the environment, and if that means cutting steak out of my diet, I’m okay with that. Eventually, I want to become vegan for the same reason. I understand that not everyone has this goal in their lives. Not everyone wants to sacrifice their favorite food for the sake of their carbon footprint. However, I’m here to tell you that it would be wise to consider it. I’m not going to tell you that it’s healthier, because Oreos are vegan and I could eat a sleeve in less than a minute. What I am going to tell you is that if more people, a lot more people, became vegetarian or vegan, we would be taking a major step towards slowing down climate change.
Most of us are not living on a farm and eating meat from that farm, so we have little to no idea where the meat is coming from. The production of that meat involves a lot of release of greenhouse gas emissions, which contributes to global warming. Emissions from livestock, mostly from burping cows and sheep and their manure, currently make up almost 15% of global emissions. Think about how many times you eat meat in a day. Imagine how much meat is produced in the U.S. in a year. According to the North American Meat Institute, in 2013, American meat companies produced 25. 8 billion pounds of beef. That’s a lot of meat. A lot of that is excessively more than the daily recommendation for your diet. Most people have heard about climate change, but a lot of people are unaware of the effect their steak dinner each night has on it. In order to slow down climate change, we all need to begin to cut down on our meat intake. Most public “green” organizations are afraid to tell people to let go of their burgers, for fear of consumer backlash, but I am here to tell you: if you claim to have any concern for the environment, cut down your meat intake. There’s basically no reason not to. “I need meat to be healthy!” You really don’t. A plant-based diet can be just as healthy, if not more, than one including meat. Everyone thinks they won’t get enough protein, but you will. Especially in the UNCC dining facilities, there are always vegetarian options including tofu, beans, or cheese, all of which have high protein. Iron is easier to get than people think. You can get iron through peanut butter, broccoli, and most leafy greens. I know, steak is delicious and a good burger is an unmatchable meal. I was like that. Believe it or not, steak used to be my favorite food. Once in middle school, I tried being vegetarian for the stereotypical “I love animals” reason, and when my mom made steak later that week, I caved. I understand that to some people, this would be a big alteration to their diet. I also understand the people who say: “If I do it, it won’t make a difference,” and that may be true to you. I thought that was the case for a while. But then I realized I couldn’t continue to contribute to this industry when I have the resources to eat a more plant-based diet. For all the people I know that care about the environment and aren’t meat-conscious, if they all went vegetarian, it would be a lot fewer people demanding that large consumption of meat. If these companies produce so much meat and it isn’t eaten, eventually the production will go down because they are wasting their money. You can make a difference. I have more and more friends cutting meat out of their diets, and all of them rave about how much better they feel, morally and health wise. One of my friends was so excited to no longer be a hypocrite when it came to her passion for the environment, and that’s how I feel, and I hope you see it that way too. In my opinion, anyone with a concern for climate change should cut out the steak and burgers and transition into a more plant-based diet, because if you can make a difference merely with your food, why don’t you?

Silencing Sam: Students Call for the Removal of the Silent Sam Monument

UNC-Chapel Hill’s first day of class this year was particularly special for hundreds of students gathered at the Silent Sam Confederate monument because it was also considered “the first day of Silent Sam’s last semester.” Silent Sam is a statue of a Confederate soldier located on Chapel Hill’s campus. After the rallies in Charlottesville, a lot of controversy has surrounded around Confederate statues and why so many people want them to come down. I personally believe that Confederate statues should be removed because they glorify soldiers that fought in an anti-American, treasonous, racist civil war. Most people’s argument for why these statues should remain standing is “we can’t erase history.” I get that. However, there is a difference between remembering history and glorifying the negative aspects of it. It’s an indisputable fact that the Confederacy wanted to secede from the United States, and that the Civil War was fought over the states’ rights to own slaves. As Alexander Stephens, the vice-president of the Confederacy said, “Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea[of racial equality]; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition.” This was a war over the right to own people. You can word that however you want, that they were fighting for “states’ rights,” is true, but it was the states’ rights to own black people as slaves. These statues of Confederate soldiers glorify people who had racist and flat-out anti-American motives. People who oppose this viewpoint don’t see the Civil War for what it truly is. A friend of mine that is a freshman at Chapel Hill and attended the rally, Hannah McCarthy, told me about her experience. She explained a conversation she had with someone of an opposing viewpoint. He believed that Silent Sam should remain where he is. The main things he said were “I don’t hate black people, I just hate black violence,” and he plagued her with the question “How do you feel about the 63 soldiers that were students that fought in the Civil War?” Like my friend, I believe that those soldiers are not relevant in this fight. The UNC students that fought in the Civil War, whether by choice or otherwise, do not need to be honored on the campus in such a display. On UNC’s website, the soldiers that the statue is dedicated to were said to “answer the call of duty,” but that isn’t the call of duty for UNC or North Carolina anymore, and taking the statue down would show that. The war was still fought over slavery, the soldiers were fighting on an evil side of history, and we should keep record of that in museums and textbooks, not monuments praising it. As of 2015, there is a state law prohibiting the removal of Confederate monuments without the approval of state legislature. If it were up to UNC, the monument would be gone. In fact, UNC Chancellor Carol Folt said in a message telling students not to attend the rally, “We are always concerned about safety on the campus and if we had the ability to immediately move the statue in the interest of public safety, we would.” Unfortunately, it isn’t up to the UNC administration and this issue is larger than one university. Public institutions shouldn’t have statues glorifying Confederate soldiers. Confederate monuments across America are being removed, and despite what some people believe, this is progress. Hopefully these protests will show this side of history, where college students don’t want symbols of hatred on their campus, and the losing side of a war against its own country isn’t praised. Hopefully, August 22 actually was the first day of Silent Sam’s last semester.