There is always crisis somewhere in the world, but lately it has felt like the news stories making headlines have been especially dire. Here is a recap of some of the current issues in need of resolution, each followed by a photo of a butt you can look at instead of wallowing in the despair of the sad sad facts.
#FERGUSON AND RACE INEQUALITY
It’s been a week of chaotic clashes between police and protesters in Ferguson, Missouri following a white police officer shooting and killing unarmed black teenager Michael Brown. While after two nights of relative calm the National Guard has been pulled out of Ferguson, signaling that the situation has achieved at least a relative calm, the exposed tension surrounding racial inequality and police brutality and militarization in the United States remains.
Some decried that the “liberal media” was making this issue about race (source). In reality though, police officers shooting unarmed black civilians is common enough that it usually does not make the national news. It is difficult to say with certainty exactly how common since there is no national database that local police precincts are required to report this data to. However, from the most recent and complete data that is reported, we know that in 2012 there were at least 426 civilians killed by a police officer. That’s more than one per day. Of those who were not attacking a police officer when they were killed, 39% were black. Given that blacks make up 13% of the total US population, this number is over 3 times higher than what an even distribution of police officer on civilian violence would dictate, indicating the presence of a racially selective mechanism going on (whether it be overtly racial profiling tactics by police or more subtle effects of structural inequalities rendering a higher proportion of African Americans to live in neighborhoods of high poverty where these events might tend to occur).
In other words, the Ferguson protests aren’t making something out of nothing. Just a few days before Michael Brown’s death, a black man was shot and killed by police officers in Ohio for picking up and carrying holding a toy gun he found inside a Wal-Mart (source). This terrible injustice happens all the time and it doesn’t always inspire protests or make national news.
This is the tip of the racial inequality iceberg, as it turns out. Sociological studies show continued structural bias in job discrimination along racial lines (source). Drug policy and policing efforts disproportionately target blacks, with African Americans four time as likely to be arrested for marijuana use than white users, despite overall usage rates being same (source). Blacks account for 12% of drug users in the US but account for 45% of those spending time in state prisons for drug offenses (source). Among racial and ethnic lines, African Americans have the highest poverty rate in the US at 27.4% (source); 45% of black children in the US are growing up in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty compared to just 12% of white children (source). And psychological studies continue to show that cultural representations of darker and lighter skin result in an implicit bias in our culture that subtly but significantly places higher value on lighter skin (source).
These issues are all related, but the cycle of poverty and the difficulty of breaking out of that cycle is arguably at the root of it all.
A recent Brandies University study found that economic inequality is actually getting worse along racial lines, three times worse over the past 25 years. As of 2009, the median net worth of white families in the US was $265,000 compared to only $28,500 for black families (source). Likelihood of home ownership, likelihood of receiving and average size of inheritances, and presence of longterm debt were all cited as contributing factors.
So, what is to be done? Programs to eliminate poverty and improve education in poor neighborhoods are essential in this fight. Early childhood education is especially crucial in getting children on the right track, but early childhood education is often under-prioritized and one of the first budgets to be cut by politicians despite its proven importance in helping to eliminate educational and economic gaps. Studies show that quality preschool programs reduce crime (source) and make a bigger impact in eliminating literacy gaps than investing in later grades (source).
Yet will we as a society choose to invest in those poor neighborhoods most in need? Will we value education and put an end to economic and social inequality? And as individuals, what are we to do in the face of these large social disparities as we struggle with just trying to do what is best for our own life and family? Is there truly any hope for change at all?
Okay. Breathe. If that is all just too much to think about right now, take a look at this butt:
That butt belongs to Nicki Minaj. It’s from the cover of her new album Anacadona. Just stare at it. There’s something hypnotic, no? Comforting, quieting, reassuring, that butt. Just let yourself get lost in it. Shh shh shh, brain of mine, don’t worry about the outside world. Never you mind. Just rest yourself in the majesty of the buttness of this butt. All is well. All is well.
We already knew that the extremist terrorist group ISIS (or ISIL) was evil. In their pursuit of a “Caliphate” or single Muslim state, they have promoted a brand of fundamentalist Islam too extreme even for al-Qaeda. They’ve murdered and tortured thousands of religious and ethnic minorities in Syria and Iraq, all on the grounds of their misguided zealotry.
This week, their hatred was directed at the US when they posted a video of a brutal beheading of US journalist James Foley. President Obama responded to the attack, saying with emotion that, “The United States of America will continue to do what we must do to protect our people. We will be vigilant and we will be relentless” and “A group like ISIL has no place in the 21st century,” (source). It was a terrorist attack against an American and it left many feeling unnerved and devastated.
At a briefing at the Pentagon following the incident, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said that ISIS was “beyond anything we have seen” in terms of terrorist groups and that military strikes in Iraq and Syria would be necessary to defeat the organization (source).
Since August 8th, the US has carried out 90 airstrikes in Iraq and more are expected. The strikes have not yet been extended into Syria, but they are expected.
John McCain has said…ugh. I’m feeling kind of depressed. If you still have more in you, read this piece by Vox on 17 things you should know about Isis. If you are feeling defeated like me, let’s take a break and look at this butt:
This is Nicki Minaj again. Side butt view. There is also a butt in the background. I’m not sure who that butt belongs to but it is also a nice butt. Is it insensitive to include these butt photos in an article mentioning such serious issues of life and death? Wait, don’t think about that. Don’t think about anything. Just look at the butt. Look at the butt. Look butt. Butt.
RUSSIA INVADING UKRAINE
Wait, this shit is still going on? All this other bad stuff is going on and Russia didn’t have the decency to chill out for a second. Hold on, I actually wasn’t paying attention to this shit while all of the other shit was going on. Got pretty wrapped up in Ferguson, to be honest. Let me Google what’s going on…
Okay, I’m back. It looks like 100 Russian trucks have entered Ukrainian soil despite the Ukrainian President forbidding this. Ukraine is calling it a military invasion. Russia says that they are “aid” trucks which nobody believes is true. Some are saying this good be a precursor to a larger scale invasion or overt military attack (source).
I definitely can’t deal with this right now. I need to look at a butt.
Minaj butt. Did she get butt implants? Is that a thing? Man, I don’t even know what is going on here but it is taking my full attention just to wrap my head around that butt and I like it.
Oh man, I forgot about ebola. Is that seriously still a thing too? I thought those Americans who got ebola in Liberia were released from the Atlanta hospital and they were all better…let’s see…yep, that happened (source).
But what about…oh Jesus, the World Health Organization just announced today that the crisis is growing and that governmental officials are “vastly underestimating the size of the outbreak” (source).
Thousands have died already and it is spreading in western African countries. It is not contained, but spreading. Damn.
I can’t really think about this right now, I need to look at a butt.
Wait, shit, that wasn’t what I meant to put there. That’s the documented ebola cases in western African countries since August 18th. I meant to put this:
I am lost in that butt. If I squint and hold my breath I can sort of half pass out and give myself a temporary delusional state where all that exists is that butt. That butt is and so am I. I am that butt and so are you.
Sexism and the objectification of women runs rampant in our patriarchal society, where…hey, wait a second. Am I contributing to this issue by choosing to look at butts? In particular, images of butts that have been cropped to remove them from the head of their owner, literally rendering them as objects? No. No way. I’m, just, um, I’m commenting on the issue. That’s what I’m doing. This is such an absurd take that I am merely pointing out, the, uh, pervasive and ubiquitous sexification of female celebrities and the correlative expectations it imposes on consumers of media, with particularly negative effects on the body issues and sexual expectations of young persons, and, uh…hold on one second…