Saturday, September 26, 2015

Immigration and Climate in the Words of Francis

The last couple of weeks have been a tornado of arguments around the Globe, especially for America, from the Republican Party presidential debate to teen Ahmed Mohamed going to Jail for showcasing his homemade clock. On Tuesday afternoon, Pope Francis landed on American Soil. This marks a historic moment for the United State because no other pope has visited the United States since 1965. Perhaps his timing is appropriate; though the US has given him the warmest welcome Pope Francis is ready to create uncomfortable moments (as he should) by bringing light to controversial modern day issues.
The pontiff received the media’s attention with his blunt comments - not only has he condemned capitalism and imposing inequalities for the poor but he also has blunt critiques for society, global economics, and other national topics.

Yesterday afternoon the pontiff directed a speech to the Senate and the House of Representatives and surprised many with his choice of topic. Francis is different from other popes; he introduces himself as a “son of inmigrants” from which America was built.

The pope started his speech with a controversial statement. He challenged congress to see immigration as a moral issue rather than a political issue, that instead of treating people as numbers they should be treated as people. "Do not be afraid to welcome them... I am certain that, as so often in the past, these people will enrich America and its church" he stated in his speech by making the argument that America was once a country full of foreigners which made the Country we are today.  His thoughts on immigration come in an appropriate time, just very recently the republican presidential candidate Donald Trump made strong accusations in regards to immigration against Mexico by stating that if elected he will build an impenetrable wall across the border. But what  people say? 51-year-old Maria Lira made the journey to D.C. from Pennsylvania where she traveled to make a statement for the undocumented. She believes that the pope is the voice of the community because he addresses issues that everyone wants to raise.

Next, Pope Francis addressed climate change. He proclaimed that we need to take immediate action and we cannot pass this problem to the next general. Furthermore, he stressed that America has a duty to act now and advocated that we need to lead that movement. Similar issues have been brought up before but it seems like GOP is slightly more interested in what really matters in this country, the money, just recently they challenged president Obama in regards his plan to cut carbon emissions from power plants because it would hurt the economy and the improvement to the environment would be minimal. Would this plan be effective? I am not sure but what I do know is that it would immoral and illogical to forget to protect and maintain human life at any given time, and that includes our planet.

Francis also urged Cuba and the United States to reconnect after more than half a century of tension. He remained positive during his speech because “the dream continues to inspire us all” every day we wake up in America, although Pope Francis advocated many changes, I am quite unsure on how proactive we are with Cuba. Can we finally rebuild ties? Only time will tell.

The pope is charismatic and people agree with his ideas. Dolores Reyes, a community resident, waited hours to see him. Reyes stated “He is more humble, more connected with people, with everyone. He is a great Pope. I love his approach."

Though the pope has left, his arguments still ring. We should endeavor to practice individualism and self-reliance to see in order to move forward. Global Climate and immigration, the main issues he addressed will require everyone’s participation. Until next time Pope Francis.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Ta-Nehisi Coates- The intellectual pioneer

The word "public intellectual" may be a little obscure for most people in America. Our overwhelming society is filled with virtual "garbage", and we are often fed the news we want to hear. It almost seems like the public intellectual is this mystical creature filled with knowledge. In fact, even if we name many famous intellectuals like Malcolm Gladwell (one of the best writers of our current times), people outside the academic world would be unaware of his work and the current issues happening in our country. Thus, it is necessary to define what a public intellectual is before we move forward.

An intellectual is someone who makes others think. They criticize, pose different views, and suggest alternative solutions to the current issues in our communities. A public intellectual could be almost anybody; their sole purpose is to transform the issue into an argument to allow the community to engage, even if this means they'll receive a lot of negative views.

John Donatich commented on the decline of these individuals on his panel discussion in 2001. He stressed the lack of impact from intellectuals are making lives of the common citizen. Moreover, he judges America for their "anti-intellectualism" and the lack of participation in public speaking, self-reliance and individualism.

Professor Mack, a scholar from the University of Southern California argues the following

As to what Donatich derisively calls a “headstrong individualism and the myth of self-reliance,” it’s worth noting that he’s not giving us full-fledged descriptions of real political ideas but caricatures of an imagined psycho-cultural disposition. An “immature” disposition, at that. One can almost hear the sit-com dad railing against his willful, stubborn, impetuous kid who has once again gotten himself in trouble because he refused to heed Pop’s unwaveringly wise advice. And in this myth, common-folk (like kids) always get into trouble because they lack what all paternal intellectuals have by birthright—impulse control. The infantile common-folk who comprise the “mob” has been the star of elitist melodrama for centuries; they’re also “exhibit A” in nearly every hand-wringing, anti-democratic treatise in the western tradition. Now, are some people ill-equipped for self-government? Of course. But the strongest alternative argument, the best argument for democracy, is not that the people are “naturally” equipped for self-government—but that they need to become so, and, moreover, experience is the only teacher. So here’s the point: Any argument for the public intellectual that, like Donatich’s, rests the assumption that common citizens are forever childlike and must be led by a class of experts is politically corrosive and historically dangerous.

 Mack makes a strong argument by saying that we are looking at this all wrong. He stresses that instead of figuring out who qualifies as a public intellectual, we should be looking at the work public intellectuals are producing and engage in their conversations. Public intellectuals are there to be the "pot boiler" as he calls them. Mack's argument is valid. In fact, no major work has been done for African American rights since the 90's, despite the daily battle that many African Americans face. It was not until Ta-Nehisi Coates came along as a voice for the unspoken with his work at the New York Times and The Atlantic.

Ta-Nehisi is a National Correspondent for The Atlantic. He writes about several topics that array from cultural, social and political issues. Furthermore, he seems particularly interested in the life of African Americans in today’s society. He serves us as a different perspective of history, such as the mistakes and social policies from the past as well as current issues happening in our society. Coates reminds us of the shame and fallacy of equality that America portrays. A society where kids have little social support and are limited to live a errorless life. Making it seen that in order to make it out of poverty, African Americans need to be some kind of super humans to leave their social class. It takes all the personal attributes and skill sets to be successful. We need people like Coates, not only because of his controversial work but because he himself has been a clear example of overcoming racism during his adolescence and childhood.

Coates was Born in Baltimore, Maryland. His father was William Paul Coates, a Vietnam War veteran, former Black Panther, publisher and librarian. His mom Cheryl Waters-Hassan was a teacher. William was one of the leaders of the Black Panthers and he strongly believed in free love and disagreed with monogamy. As a result, William Coates had seven children’s with four different women. This however, did not affect the relationship between Ta-Nehisi and his father. The children lived with their mothers, but they were visited by William on a regular basis he mentioned that he and his father lived together most of the time. This unorthodox way of parenting was geared towards self-development and education from an early age.

Coates passion for books began early. His mom would make him write essays as punishment for bad behavior. More importantly, his dad would often take him to visit Eddie Conway, who was the Minister of Defense of the Baltimore chapter of the Black Panther Party; this clearly had a huge impact in Ta-Nehisi's life. He was able to see the “face of the enemy” as his dad argued when asked why he would take Ta-Nehisi to Jails.

His childhood and adolescence was marked by chaos, but he found himself at peace within this chaos, realizing that this is something he was going to deal as he continued to grow. He recalls a time in his childhood where his mom sat him down and told him what to wear, who to walk to school with, how many people he should walk with. That signaled confusion at the time, he argues. In addition, Coates struggled to remain focused in school (he later wrote a blog about that spoke about the education system in America) so he spent most of the time in the library teaching himself in order to graduate.

After high school, he attended Howard University to study Journalism. He stayed at Howard for five years and eventually left to start his career as a journalist without obtaining his degree. From 2000-2007 he managed to stay relevant and worked for several publications such as the Philadelphia Weekly, The Village Voice, and Time. But it was not until he published “How We Lost to the White Man” that Coates got major exposure. He wrote his post based off a speech given by Bill Cosby (known as the pound cake speech) in May 2004. He targets subsets of the black community for usage of African American Vernacular English, or less precisely Black English as well as the frivolous life that many live despite their economic status. More importantly, Coates argues that racism in America is omnipresent and the community should strive to change that continuously. Furthermore, he suggests that the notion of equality is a little farfetched and misleading due to the current social policies put in place by the United States of America. Instead, he suggest, the Negro community should start by changing their culture, and reclaim traditions that were lost in the past due to violence and racism. This eloquent work gave Coates a position as a senior editor at The Atlantic, a blog that engages a high level of community engagement.

Coates work didn’t stop there nor did he limit his work dealing with African American injustice. Since 2012 he has written influential works such as  “The Fear of a Black President”, “The Case of Reparations”, “Between the World and Me” to name a few. His work has become so impactful that many in the academic world often suggest Coates work should be required reading for today’s society.

Ta-Nehisi shows willingness to put his reputation on the line when important issues are being overlooked. For example, in the post “Fear of a Black President”, Coates (who seemed to be writing with a taste of anger) criticized the position president Obama takes when racial issues arise.  Coates writes

“...The irony of Barack Obama is this: he has become the most successful black politician in American history by avoiding the radioactive racial issues of yesteryear, by being “clean” --as Joe Biden once labeled him—and yet his indelible blackness irradiates everything he touches,"
Coates argues that the president has the tendency to emphasize that he is the president of America with issues that deal with moralities that link minorities in which he has no right to deliver since the basis of America is founded in the vast majority of its history and history is based on a policy of plunder against black people. He later, ends the blog by saying that he shares compassion to Obama and he acknowledges that the president is not a king and that he knows how institutionalized our current government is.

He is a very interesting character if you ask me. He not only put himself in a position to lose popularity but he also makes an extra effort to spread his ideologies to future generations. A clear example is his latest book "Between the World and Me" where he talks about how his child is reading the Ferguson case and the impact that it made. He starts the book by stating "Here is what I would like for you to know: In America, it is traditional to destroy the black body—it is heritage." He claims that it is simply a statement of fact that needs to be understood. He knows that racism is an ongoing fear for young African Americans and that he may very well die without seeing much progress. But that it is an endeavor one must continue to achieve progression.

The controversial Coates is doing exactly what Mack argues in his article, which is “prod, poke, and pester the powerful institutions.” Not only does he discuss the problems in a way that common readers are able to understand and engage, but he also makes plausible and tangential points in regards to possible solutions to the given situation at hand. Fortunately, he is able to share his ideas on a major scale which enables him to make an impact.  To finish Mack hit the nail on the head when he said “The measure of public intellectual work is not whether the people are listening, but whether they’re hearing things worth talking about.”