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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An Open Letter to the Person Who Still Uses the "R Word"

Your negative associations are slowly poisoning the true meaning of an incredibly beautiful, exclusive word.

What do you mean you didn't “mean it like that?" You said it.

People don't say things just for the hell of it. It has one definition. Merriam-Webster defines it as, "To be less advanced in mental, physical or social development than is usual for one's age."

So, when you were “retarded drunk" this past weekend, as you claim, were you diagnosed with a physical or mental disability?

When you called your friend “retarded," did you realize that you were actually falsely labeling them as handicapped?

Don't correct yourself with words like “stupid," “dumb," or “ignorant." when I call you out. Sharpen your vocabulary a little more and broaden your horizons, because I promise you that if people with disabilities could banish that word forever, they would.

Especially when people associate it with drunks, bad decisions, idiotic statements, their enemies and other meaningless issues. Oh trust me, they are way more than that.

I'm not quite sure if you have had your eyes opened as to what a disabled person is capable of, but let me go ahead and lay it out there for you. My best friend has Down Syndrome, and when I tell people that their initial reaction is, “Oh that is so nice of you! You are so selfless to hang out with her."

Well, thanks for the compliment, but she is a person. A living, breathing, normal girl who has feelings, friends, thousands of abilities, knowledge, and compassion out the wazoo.

She listens better than anyone I know, she gets more excited to see me than anyone I know, and she works harder at her hobbies, school, work, and sports than anyone I know. She attends a private school, is a member of the swim team, has won multiple events in the Special Olympics, is in the school choir, and could quite possibly be the most popular girl at her school!

So yes, I would love to take your compliment, but please realize that most people who are labeled as “disabled" are actually more “able" than normal people. I hang out with her because she is one of the people who has so effortlessly taught me simplicity, gratitude, strength, faith, passion, love, genuine happiness and so much more.

Speaking for the people who cannot defend themselves: choose a new word.

The trend has gone out of style, just like smoking cigarettes or not wearing your seat belt. It is poisonous, it is ignorant, and it is low class.

As I explained above, most people with disabilities are actually more capable than a normal human because of their advantageous ways of making peoples' days and unknowingly changing lives. Hang out with a handicapped person, even if it is just for a day. I can one hundred percent guarantee you will bite your tongue next time you go to use the term out of context.

Hopefully you at least think of my friend, who in my book is a hero, a champion and an overcomer. Don't use the “R Word". You are way too good for that. Stand up and correct someone today.

Cover Image Credit: Kaitlin Murray

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Truth Is, All Trump Has Done Is Make America Hate Again

I accept and understand that you may have different opinions, but please respect mine too.


A feat that was thought nearly impossible. Almost every poll reported that it was a clear win for Hillary Clinton. Yet, the day of the election many Trump supporters found themselves overjoyed.

I remember that day very clearly. It was incredibly late on a school night but there was no way that I could go to bed. I was sixteen years old and terrified for the future. Whoever won, I was aware that it would be an interesting, but tough four years. I remember not being particularly fond of Hillary, but I strongly opposed (and still do) Donald Trump.

I want to point out that I try to be very respectful about different political opinions, I feel like there is something to learn from everyone. I find it difficult to do that in this case. I will attempt to look at it from both angles, regardless.

I am outraged. Outraged by the reality of his presidency.

A man with zero qualification in regards to politics, no experience in the field, and ultimately a failed businessman. One can argue that it's very elitist of me to believe that someone who went to school or has experience with politics should be the only people with access to the White House. I argue that it is important that whoever occupies the oval office should have education on the very thing he was elected to do, lead the country. A degree doesn't make one better than anyone else, but it indicates a formal education, which I believe is fair to ask for when put in the highest position of power in the United States.

I firmly believe that Donald Trump's views do not coincide with what the Republican party was before. This poses the analysis of how much the GOP has changed since he announced the beginning of the campaign. I believe that before Trump, and even Obama, ran the White House, Republicans and Democrats were different in some ways, but never with this aggression and blatant disrespect for one another.

"Respect," is a word that Trump doesn't seem to be too familiar with. It seems like he doesn't know when he is being severely disrespectful. For example, when he attacked the disabled reporter; More recently, when he mocked Christine Blasey Ford. Whatever your position, Republican, Democrat or Libertarian, we can agree that mocking people on Twitter or in rallies is poor taste...

... or not.

Which brings me to my next point and what I believe to be the worst part of Trump´s presidency. I believe he has not "made America great again," but he has made it OK to be hateful again. I think this incessant bullying and obvious racism has only enabled those who have believed these things but knew it was bad to express it. This attitude and distaste towards minorities or just those who are different is so prevalent. Donald Trump has taken a large part is encouraging this.

He made it OK to oppress people again.

He made it OK to hurt those who are different.

He made it OK to be racist and proud.

He made it OK to be shamed for being an abuse victim.

He made it OK to hate on the right to free speech.

He made it OK to be narrow-minded.

Don't get me wrong, I am positive that there have always been people like this but never out in the open. He exposed this great issue and frankly, it's depressing.

It's depressing to know that there are people who are this vicious towards others. I think this norm of being so distasteful towards each other and it needs to stop.

This is the reality of what we face in this country. It´s up to us to change it. Political science major or not, Democrat or not. It is imperative we see the harm of this administration and hope to change our country for the better.

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