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Sunday, June 14, 2015

Supporting Rachel Dolezal

"She has to be crazy," they said. "Who would pass themselves off as being black?!" Those were the words said by many throughout the week after Dolezal, head of the Spokane, Washington NAACP, was discovered to have lied about her race for years. Dolezal's parents were seen on news outlets around the country stating that their daughter is indeed not black, and also produced the birth certificate proving that very point.

Rachel Dolezal told KREM reporter Shawn Chitnis, "Actually, I don't like the term African-American; I prefer black. So if asked, I would say, yes, I consider to be black.

The NAACP leader explained that everything she is being questioned about -- her race, her children and her biological parents -- are "a very private matter." Dolezal has two adopted brothers who are black, as well as a son who is of African-American descent. She obtained legal custody of her adopted brother, Izaiah, after he sought emancipation from Dolezal's biological parents. Dolezal also refers to Izaiah as her son. "I am his mom," she told KREM. "I do see myself as [that]. He's not my brother. That's not our relationship.

She has also revealed that she doesn't consider her biological parents her "real parents." Dolezal does not speak to them due to an ongoing legal issue; and perhaps that's why she was interrogated on the street by a news investigator.  

Instead of the focus being on the "crazy white woman" who tans her skin and wears afrocentric wigs and blowouts to make herself look black; certainly credit must be given to the woman who raised two black men on her own and heads a local NAACP chapter. One can easily say that this white woman has done more for the black community than 100 Caucasian and Black people would do in a their entire lifetime. 

So, let's simply leave the white/black lady alone. Surely, she has plenty of work to do.

Brian L. Elliott, The Scarlet Journal
June 14, 2015 1:04PM EDT

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Missouri's Poor Handling of Their Welfare System

Lawmaker's in Missouri have voted to remove thousands of people from its welfare program. The act will force 6,400 children to lose benefits in the first year alone.  The new law will reduce the state's lifetime limit for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) from five years to three years and nine months. This act starts a countdown before many will go further into hunger, homelessness and despair.

Individuals will have six weeks after a meeting with a social worker before losing half of the family's benefits. All benefits will be cut off after an additional 10 weeks. In 2013 researchers from an anti-poverty group, Maine Equal Justice Partners, found that cuts to TANF push families deeper into poverty and forces them to rely on charity. Neighboring state Kansas did a similar, yet somewhat milder, act to Missouri's when Republican Governor Sam Brownback prohibited families on welfare from using cash assistance on recreational activities such as swimming pools and movies.

A study which focused on families transitioning from welfare reported that 70 percent of the recipients had to go to the food bank, and more than 1 in 3 families quickly lost their utility services. Such acts as these are part of the reason why the outpouring in Baltimore felt to be a reasonable and necessary resolve. The local and state government had been consistently letting their citizen's down. 

It's almost amazing to think that groups of people in the United States have been deprived of certain freedoms for hundreds of years. In addition, these deprived people (our citizens) are expected to believe that the "bootstrap theory" (which maintains that you alone should be able to pull yourself out of your own muck) is an American manual for successful living. To this day, it is a concept rejected by most university professors and sociologists.  

Only six years ago, many Americans were homeless due to a recession which took years to overcome. It was not government regulations that supported Americans in these dire times but government assistance. It seems logical that people who have experienced tougher times should be able to empathize for others going through similar situations. However, one can only conclude that in order to have empathy for another, one must first obtain the necessary characteristics which defines a human being. 

Brian L. Elliott, The Scarlet Journal

May 17, 2015, 10:41AM EDT

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Race Tensions: Will Baltimore Be The First To Change

Much needed protests turning into acts of random violence is something that appears to be a regularity these days. The city of Baltimore was the latest to record this experience. Police cars were vandalized and a 7-Eleven convenience store was trashed as people outwardly expressed themselves in reaction to the death of Freddie Gray to the hands of some Baltimore police officers.

Twenty-five year old Freddie Gray died after suffering a severed spine as a result of police brutality. Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts voiced months earlier his concerns regarding his officers' handling of daily matters. Now Batts has to handle the reactions of black Baltimoreans who are asking for immediate change.  

The city of Baltimore could be the one place where measurable changes can actually take place. We've seen young black men murdered by police in states all over the country and no one can actually say that "change" has occurred. However, many sense that the city of Baltimore is a place that can be more welcoming to change. Baltimore is one of the smaller metropolitan cities located in a prominently liberal state with a large black population. Each of these factors is an important one if a positive outcome is expected.

Moreover, if a measurable change were to come, many in the city would agree that it would not be because of the responses (and requests for assistance) from black mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake nor from the expected works of black police commissioner Anthony Batts. It's apparent that this matter is all in the hands of the black citizens of Baltimore and the small number of non-black protesters. But most importantly, this group has to survive whatever reaction there is to come.  

Brian L. Elliott, The Scarlet Journal
April 24, 2015, 8:31PM EDT

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Harsh Truth About Capital Punishment

Photograph: Tony Garcia 
The United States' stance on capital punishment has remained consistent throughout its historical existence as an independent country. Capital punishment has been prevalent since the arrival of immigrant ships from the Old Country. Those accused of going against societal rules have been beheaded, hanged, and even burned alive on stakes. Despite a public request for a ban on the death penalty, it seems almost certain that the U.S. will never stray from a practice that is so fixed in its culture. Being the case, the nation's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment seems to be more of a facade than it is a law.

Recently, the American people have witnessed horrific beheadings committed by extremists on presumably innocent people. To no surprise, the consensus opinion on these killings has been nothing short of barbarous. One can assume that the United States has progressed throughout the years in regards to its views on punishment and torture. Although, even after being globally criticized for its waterboarding techniques on prisoners, the use of lethal injection as a method of capital punishment has come to be a practice in question. 

Most recently, a convicted man in Oklahoma was observed experiencing an extremely uncomfortable lethal injection, although the procedure is used as a means to carry out a more humane practice of capital punishment. Seven percent of all lethal injection procedures have been botched, in addition to 3% of all electrocutions.  Despite its ineffectiveness, these methods continue. In January, Warren Lee was put to death despite international protest that the state of Georgia was executing a man with a child's intellect.  The death penalty had gotten criticism for being unjust in the past; however, now the immorality of the act is making is way to the forefront.

The belief that other countries are the monstrous ones and the U.S. ranks higher on a morality meter is truly false.  The veil has been removed, and the country has yet to change its deceptive nature. Leaving decisions regarding capital punishment to state control is no longer the better solution. Capital punishment in all forms is indeed a savage act. The acceptance that the United States is no different than other nations that practice capital punishment could be the greatest advance towards moral change in its ever-perplexing history.

Brian L. Elliott, The Scarlet Journal
February 3, 2015, 7:21PM EDT

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The War Against Youth Homicide

The problem with youth homicides in the city of Baltimore has once again resurfaced. Although some may feel that the issue is regional, the increased number of youth homicides is one which can't be dismissed as simply a local matter.  No one needs a reminder of the importance of youth lives, especially when it's a preventable problem.

In 2014 there were 15 youth deaths in the city of Baltimore. That number is down from 26 deaths in 2008 but equals the number from 2011. In the month of August, city officials issued a curfew for youths age 16 and under.  Although the city has taken a measure to address the issue, it remains one which still needs serious attention.

There are numerous factors which play a role to this ongoing struggle.  There is a national deterioration of the nuclear family, the ever-changing American culture swiftly accepts popular beliefs; but particularly,there is a continual concern regarding gun control in the United States.  Despite the country's provisions on firearm possession, there remains a blind eye to matters pertaining to youth homicide.  One would think that there would be a stronger stance on the issue after the Virginia Tech killings in 2007, and then again after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in 2012. Obviously, the safety of today's youth is far less important than that of other national matters deemed necessary for most Americans.

Eleven-year-old Matthew Thomas was the most recent victim of youth homicide in the city of Baltimore. He was shot by his 54-year-old father in an SUV for a reason which is still being investigated. Matthew 's family said that young Matt loved chemistry sets and Spider-man posters.  He also enjoyed reading and playing Minecraft.  Matthew Thomas was a normal kid. Surely, he was no different than any of the slain others.

Brian L. Elliott, The Scarlet Journal.  Research gathered  from The Baltimore Sun.
January, 13, 2015 EDT 3:35PM

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Resurgence Of The Youth Art Movement

photo courtesy of ICAF.org
If you've ever attended a parent-teacher conference for a child under the age of 9, you were probably overawed by the creative works that decorated their classroom walls. You may also have noticed that the walls of 4th and 5th graders were perhaps not as lively. There, you will find posters referencing mathematical equations or perhaps portraits of U.S. presidents. The subject matter is indeed necessary, however one may wonder if their creative minds have been stagnated by their teachers' yielding to standardized testing demands. So, are we indeed stunting our children's future as we casually restrict them of their creativity?

Many kids today are encouraged to steer away from the arts. In a more technological world, engineering and other sciences are said to be the key to the future. However, we can change this problem by advocating for a resurged movement in youth arts. The World Children's Festival is one active participant in the movement by being a platform where art is celebrated and showcased to today's youth. Every four years the World's Children Festival returns to The National Mall in Washington, D.C. with a goal of promoting art as the building block for universal prosperity and peace.

Some creative experts say that children are educated out of their creativity. This belief, however, is utterly false. After what is considered a "4th grade slump," children are simply less encouraged to apply themselves in the field of arts in most schools. If creativity remains within us, why isn't this quality fostered to make children better suited to be the people they are to become?

Creativity embodies everything we do. This means that art exist in all professions, irrespective of whether someone is a mechanic, a biologist, or a materials handler. It doesn't just apply to writers, designers, and painters. The creative trait within each person not only enables one to excel, but can also give one an edge to outperform another in a competitive job market.  

The 5th World Children's Festival is an event that takes place July 2-5, 2015.  It is a free-of-charge three-day summer camp that will celebrate and educate the arts. It showcases a production and exhibition of amazing works by children and professional artists, in addition to providing musical performances and workshops held by eminent educators.  It is a multi-cultural, educational celebration of creativity, diversity and unity.

Twenty years ago the International Child Art Foundation identified the importance for children's creative and empathic development. The World Children's Festival took on the task to advance that movement. It is believed that creativity holds true value in the upbringing of young minds. About 60% of CEOs have cited creativity as the most important quality for tomorrow's leaders, while 35% say that it is global thinking.  

For years, the thought has been that we are successfully preparing our children for an uncertain future. The World Children's Festival is giving us a chance to correct such misguidance. Thankfully we now know that by fostering youth creativity, a light can now shine on a future that once lacked its truest color.

Brian L. Elliott, The Scarlet Journal
December 17, 2014, 1:30PM EDT

Monday, December 1, 2014

Rape 101: Sexual Assault On Today's College Campus

The numbers can be confusing. One out of every 5 women are sexually assaulted on the campuses of colleges and universities across the country. However, the parents of young women seeking an education will tell you that any number higher than zero is entirely too high. Yet, if you factor in the report that only 12 percent of sexual assaults get reported to police then truly there is reason for concern.

The recent Rolling Stones article on a 2012 rape of a freshman girl on the campus of The University of Virginia puts the issue once again in the national spotlight. The account places a teen at a fraternity party where she is escorted upstairs and gang raped by 7 of the university's students.  Encouraged by her friends to remain quiet, the student struggled with daily life both on and off campus.

Most people know that sexual predators develop and polish their habits of victimizing women. We also know that young teens who are in the company of drugs and alcohol will do things that lead to horrible regrets. However, we do not take into account an accepted culture of rape and sexual assault on today's college campuses.  A student may brush off sexual assaults as a "bad night" from a much desired party. Fused with that is the existence of university administrations that are less concerned about protecting its students and are more interested in both maintaining the enrollment of next year's freshman class and protecting itself from a bad reputation.

In response to suspected cover-ups, the Obama administration announced a Title IX investigation of schools suspected of inadequately handling sexual-violence complaints. If found in violation, universities face the risk of financial penalties, and possibly revoking federal funding.  One would assume that if the Title IX investigation is true to its mission then universities will take the necessary steps to rid a culture which has proven to be incurable.

The bottom line is that universities are not doing enough to protect their students. They are not giving young woman unbiased advice regarding their choices, they are placing their own reputation over the needs of those victimized on their grounds, and they are masking this activity behind reports that are so skewed that the parents believe they are sending their children to safe havens. Every semester there are small shattered female voices who are too afraid to talk about the worst night of their lives.  In addition, there are also the proud voices of those whose selfishness prevents them from ridding the very culture that they began.  

Due to the lack of response by university administrators who claim to take the matter seriously, now is the time for other voices to take the lead. The words that are unheard are the ones who hold the positions as guardians, uncles, aunts, and mentors. They are indeed the ones who are responsible for the overall care of the student. The time to address the issue is now. When a rape or sexual assault happens to your child, your voice in the matter just might be too late.

Brian L. Elliott, The Scarlet Journal
December 1, 2014, 6:09 EDT