Orange Should Not Be The New Black

Orange Should Not Be The New Black

The Dignity campaign for incarcerated women needs your support.

If you haven't yet seen Ava DuVernay's award-winning, Oscar-nominated expository documentary, "13th" (2016), it's on Netflix, and you should watch it as soon as possible.

Through the powerful medium of cinema, DuVernay examines how history has influenced and shaped the cancerous institutional racism and mass incarceration that has plagued the United States, home of the supposedly 'free,' for centuries.

The film's synthesis of graphic and monumental footage, lyrical rap, shocking statistics, and thought-provoking interviews delivers a touching and impactful blow to its audience, encouraging viewers to approach reality with a new conscious and informed perspective in the hope for some kind of national change.

The movie focuses primarily on the incarceration of African American males, noting that 1 in 3 black men have a lifetime likelihood of imprisonment, and that although this demographic makes up 6.5% of the US population, black men account for 40.2% of the prison population (The Bureau of Justice).

However, the population of women in prison is also increasing, in fact, between 1980 and 2014, the population grew by 700%, which is a higher rate than men (#cut50). A 2017 Prison Policy study found that out of the 219,000 incarcerated women in the United States, over 60% have not even been convicted, meaning most of them simply lack the funds to get themselves out of jail.

A separate report found that 80% of imprisoned women are either pregnant or current mothers, and are therefor almost always separated from their family and their children. Additionally, around 86% reported themselves as victims of sexual violence, and 76% were found to be victims of domestic abuse.

Proper women's health care is a fundamental human right and necessity to overall quality of life, but the prison system is stealing this away from those females who find themselves behind bars. Too often women in jail undergo mass traumatization that renders them unable to re-assimilate to life outside bars, or does so much harm to them that they develop crippling mental disorders which could cost them their lives.

In the past few months, a new movement emphasizing the need for incarcerated women's' rights has evolved called 'Dignity'.

The campaign, supported by a partnership between , #cut50, the We Are Here Movement and the National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls, with the support of the Grammy Award-winning artist, Alicia Keys, aims to rally support and draw attention to the newly introduced 'Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act', backed by Senators Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren.

Although the act addresses serious issues that often go unnoticed when it comes to criminal justice reform and offers solutions for a significant amount of the abuse and mistreatment women in prison face, there hasn't yet been a congressional hearing scheduled for it. The Dignity movement has started an online petition to apply pressure on Senator Chuck Grassley, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, to get the problem and the act heard.

One of the most popular TV shows in the past five years, especially for us millennials, is Jenji Kohan's 'Orange is the New Black', which can be found conveniently on Netflix. 'OITNB' is a comedy/drama which follows protagonist, Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling), as she faces time in an all-women's institution for a transportation of drugs she was involved with in her past.

Piper, accustomed to her, privileged, upper class 'life-in-a-bubble", takes a while to assimilate to the diverse, tense, and cut-throat nature of the prison, but the more aware and cognizant she becomes, so does the audience.

While the show does an exceptional job of emphasizing the humanity of each prisoner, accentuating how each woman has their own story and deserves respect and fair treatment, what's really impressive is how it contrasts these character developments with how immorally the treatment of the guards and how inhumane their living conditions are.

Yes, it has lots of humor, but the show still deals with serious issues anywhere ranging from sexual orientation, racism, religion, to rape, drug abuse, and obviously mistreatment and lack of fundamental human rights within the criminal justice system.

The show brought attention to many social justice issues and has coincided critically with many current movements in the US with the material in its episodes, however, arguably even more impactful, is the continued support for these causes by the actresses of OITNB in real life.

Prominent cast members Taylor Schilling, Danielle Brooks, Uzo Aduba, Yael Stone, Samira Wiley, and many others all consistently promote campaigns for social justice (whether that be through LGBTQ, racial, or gender equality) on their social media and through appearances at demonstrations and events.

However, in keeping with their show's theme, I believe it's time that some of these incredible women should again use their celebrity for the greater good by standing behind this Dignity campaign and the fight for the rights of incarcerated women like the ones they fictitiously represent.

Because at the end of the day, orange should not be the new black. And if a woman does find herself behind bars, she deserves quality health care and treatment while she's suffering.

This cause definitely needs more awareness. Stemming from the broader concept of institutional racism, which makes it harder to chip away at, the more people who join together to work towards change the better chance we have of something actually being done on a legislative level. Hundreds of thousands of women's lives are at stake and it's important that we don't forget about them or let them struggle in silence.

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Starbucks Corrects Its Wrongs In Light Of Recent Racial Bias Issue

All stores in the U.S. will be closed on May 29th to perform racial bias training.

Recently, a video of two African-American men being arrested in their local Starbucks for simply standing and waiting for their friends in the lobby/seating area surfaced on the internet. Since this situation was brought to light, there has been an uproar of public outrage focused on the blatant racial bias these men were faced with. Even Starbucks itself had something to say about it.

For many African-American citizens, this situation is all too common. Being racially profiled is not a thing of the past and more than just these two men have experienced it. The ACLU writes about the experiences of citizens being racially profiled, stating,

"We rely on the police to protect us from harm and promote fairness and justice in our communities. But racial profiling has led countless people to live in fear, casting entire communities as suspect simply because of what they look like, where they come from, or what religion they adhere to."

In light of the recent incident at a Philadelphia Starbucks, many fans expressed outrage in the comments section of this post, but Starbucks responded to almost every viral, angry comment:

However, in the midst all of the outraged comments were fans who appreciated the message that Starbucks was trying to send:

Despite the mixed reviews on Starbucks' course of action, the company is standing strong in their choice to address the issue and correct it.

People come to Starbucks stores to drink coffee, hang out, talk with their friends, and have a good time. It is absurd that these two men were escorted out and arrested for doing just that. I, personally, have done that same thing and have never once been asked to leave.

As a country, we need to think about the way we treat people of color and other minorities. It is a shame that this kind of public outcry had to happen to bring racial profiling to our attention. People are treated unfairly for no reason other than the color of their skin every day.

Way to go, Starbucks.

Thank you for recognizing that this was not an isolated incident and that racial profiling happens all the time. Thank you for taking the time to publicly announce that you are willing to go through the proper training with your employees to ensure that it doesn't happen ever again. But most of all, thank you for making a statement to the rest of the nation and the world about what kind of company you are, what kind of people you represent, and that racial injustice will not be tolerated.

Cover Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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Why Earth Day Is Underrated, And What You Can Do

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.” –The Lorax

April 22 may be just another day to most, but with climate change on the rise and wildlife becoming extinct, it’s more important now than ever to recognize Earth Day and understand what it entails. Our society as a whole cannot let this day pass with nothing done. It has to serve as a reminder of the action that must be taken.

Late January of 1969 would come to be a turning point for our nation. At the time, the worst oil spill in history occurred in Santa Barbara, California. Founder of Earth Day, Gaylord Nelson was horrified, yet inspired. Soon after, he announced his idea to teach the nation about the environment and built a staff to promote events across the country.

Earth Day brought thousands of colleges and universities together to fight for the cause. It became a sense of unity for everyone. No matter who you were, what race you were, where you came from, Earth Day was able to empower these people and help them realize they all wanted the same thing for the home we share. This kind of behavior is exactly what we need today, and should enable us to see that we’re all on the same side.

By the time 1990 came, Earth Day became a global event. 200 million people were involved to fight for environmental issues.

Today, Earth Day and the environment face many challenges. With those who deny climate change, deforestation, oil lobbyists, fracking, dying animal life, politicians dividing our nation on these issues, and much more, Earth Day astoundingly continues to prevail through the obstacles. With over 190 counties participating in the event each year, and more than 1 billion people, it’s never too late to do your part and contribute to the day.

Here are some basic things that anyone can do to make a change. Every day counts, and anything you do matters.

1. Join a local outdoors cleanup

Rivers, forests, beaches, whatever is near you. Help clean up litter and debris.

2. Carpool

This is probably the simplest thing you and your friends or family can do. If you’re going to the same place, drive together. For every mile you don’t drive- you’re reducing your carbon footprint by 1 pound.

3. Bring reusable bags when you shop

They’re cheap, cute, and save an abundance on plastic.

4. Use a reusable water bottle

Save on wasting plastic bottles every day.

5. Use environmentally friendly cleaning products

Typical cleaning products are high in chemicals and toxicity.

6. Always recycle!

Paper, plastic, cans, anything you can. Every individual thing recycled makes a difference.

7. Use LED lightbulbs

This can reduce your footprint 450 pounds per year.

8. Volunteer at local environmental groups

See if your school has an environmental club, or anything local in your town. See how many people you can get to do it with you and make a day out of it.

9. Donate your clothes and check out thrift stores

Instead of throwing them out, give them to somewhere they will be of use. Also, thrift shopping is inexpensive and you can find some really unexpectedly great items!

10. Don’t wait until Earth Day to do all of these things

Keep up the green behavior year-round.

Do your part, and do what you can today.

Cover Image Credit: Pinterest

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