I Stand With Standing Rock

Today is Thanksgiving, and I wanted to give everyone a reminder that while we are celebrating a holiday based on love and trust between pilgrims and Native Americans, we are currently waging a war against the very people who fed us and taught us so much as we colonized this country.

In North Dakota, preparation for the Dakota Pipeline continues.

For those who aren’t familiar with the pipeline, it is a 1,172 foot pipeline that will be built to transport crude oil. The biggest problem? The pipeline will disrupt the lives of thousands of Native Americans from the Sioux tribe, as it runs through land just outside the Standing Rock Reservation.

A section of the pipeline will run underneath the Missouri River, which is the main source of freshwater for the Sioux people who live in the reservation. If the pipeline should break, this puts access to clean water at risk for those who live on the reservation. A popular chant by protesters is “water is life,” an indisputable fact. Without access to clean water, no human population can continue to survive.

Furthermore, members of the Sioux tribe say that the construction of the pipeline will disrupt sacred burial grounds. I can say with confidence that if white Christian cemeteries were about to be unearthed for the sake of an oil pipeline there would be outrage. It is pure racism that dictates that the burial grounds of the Sioux tribes somehow hold a less sacred quality.

Protesters have been gathering to voice their anger for months. The situation has become progressively more violent; that is, from the side of the policemen guarding the pipeline. Reportedly, protesters have been pepper sprayed, shot at with rubber bullets, faced attack dogs, been injured by concussion grenades, blasted by water cannons, and more.

It is despicable that our government and police forces can stand for this kind of oppression, violence, and the violation of constitutional rights.

For a list of ways that you can help support the Standing Rock Reservation and the protesters, visit http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/help-standing-rock-sioux-dakota-access-pipeline_us_583480c9e4b000af95eca013

Sources:

http://www.daplpipelinefacts.com/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/dakota-access-pipeline-protests-water_us_57d85a51e4b0aa4b722d12b1

http://time.com/4548566/dakota-access-pipeline-standing-rock-sioux/

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Student Walkout in Granite School District: Constructive or Destructive?

On November 11th, hundreds of students from Hunter High School, Kearns High School, and Taylorsville High School to protest the recent election of Donald Trump. The school district estimates that about 500 students participated. Granite District’s Facebook post reads:

“Dear Patrons,
Today at Hunter High School, Kearns High School, and Taylorsville High School groups of students initiated a walk out in protest over the recent election. The walk out started at Hunter High with approximately 200+ students who made their way to Kearns, then to Taylorsville High School. While this was not a majority of students by any means, it appears around 500 students participated.
As student safety and instruction is our primary goal, we wanted to ensure all students who remained in class had the opportunity to learn and were not disrupted. Additionally, we wanted to make sure students who did participate in the walk out remained safe. As such, Unified Police followed the group as they made their way to Taylorsville, where they were allowed on the football field to prevent them from being near busy streets and would not disrupt students in class.
This event was covered extensively by news media. If your student is under the age of 18, news media cannot legally interview your child without permission. If this is a concern for you, please contact the media outlet directly.
Attendance was taken as normal today. If you would like to check to see if your child was in class, you may contact your school’s attendance office or check the Parent Portal.
We appreciate the efforts of law enforcement and school administration to keep our students safe and keep instruction going in classrooms.”

These students have faced much criticism from parents, teachers, and others. Comments left on the above post could easily be described as condescending. A few that stood out to me, copied directly from the comments:

“Some of these kids probably didn’t even protest, they were just looking for a reason to skip class and create an unsafe mess!”

“They participated in a peaceful protest for what a fair election? They didnt get their way, boo hoo. This is the real world YOU WONT ALWAYS GET YOUR WAY!!!!”

“Really? They aren’t even old enough to vote.”

“And this is what happens when you give trophies to the losers/participants trophies. Not everybody needs to throw a fit when they don’t get their way. Grow up and face the fact that not everybody wins.”
I, personally, am very proud of the students who did this. They are paying attention to politics and utilizing their First Amendment rights to make their voices heard. This election affects them and they have the right to voice their opinions. Even if they can’t vote yet, they will be able to in a few years and I think it’s important that they start their own political education now.

Many people also complained about the fact that students skipped school to protest. They say that this disrupts education. I disagree. Missing a single day of school will not affect a student’s learning or their grade. In fact, I would argue that using their rights and learning about politics is much more educational than a day in school.

It is unacceptable for adults to discourage students for standing up for their beliefs, especially when it is done in such a derogatory and disdainful way. These students are taking a stand for themselves, their loved ones, and their lives. They should be respected for this.

Students, I stand with you.

Trump is President, Just Accept It!

On November 8th, I cried myself to sleep.

Since the results of the Presidential Election became official, I’ve been in a state of shock. Now that Trump is the President Elect of the United States, his rhetoric becomes somehow more “acceptable.” This is a scary time for marginalized populations as violence and hate crimes against them rise, and I am afraid.

I’ve been to two protests since the election. I can honestly say that I have never felt so much solidarity as we marched together through the streets. The protests were mainly peaceful. I’ve been told that there was some violence from protesters and for that, I am sorry. However, the only violence and hate I witnessed was from counter-protesters when a woman was hit intentionally by a car, a man attempted to rip a banner from the hands of protesters, and when another man jumped out of his car to yell at protesters crossing the street trying to go home after the protest.

Many people have come to me to tell me that Donald Trump is the future President, and there is nothing I can do about that. I know this and I have accepted it.

So what am I trying to accomplish?

I am trying to protect myself. For those of you who don’t know, I identify with a queer sexual orientation. For me, this is very personal. I am frightened that people will say words of hate against me, and even of physical violence. Since the election I’ve been told that my fear is selfish and invalid multiple times, despite accounts and evidence of the violence that is happening against marginalized populations right now.

I am trying to protect the people I love. Many of my friends are minorities. They are Muslim, international, women, LGBT+, black, latinx… These are groups that will be directly affected by a Trump presidency and his hateful supporters.

More than anything, I am trying to make change. This is twofold: change to the system and change to society.

Most of us, on both sides, will agree that a system which brought forth two of the most widely-hated candidates is not a system that works. The system now is overrun with corruption and big money. That needs to change. I believe that we need a multi-party system that allows for the diverse opinions of the people to be heard and accounted for. Additionally, rules need to be put in place to prevent the “buying” of political candidates and policies.

As for the second, a society that can vote a misogynistic, racist, Islamophobic, ableist, and nationalistic man into presidential office must undergo some serious change. A president who stands for such beliefs stems from a society in which many of these beliefs already prosper. Trump was not the cause for such sentiment, he was merely a vessel for it. I cannot stand for this.

I will continue to fight for human rights. I will continue to fight for freedom. I will continue to fight for acceptance for all. And I will not back down.

15068535_10208236052204394_7028645268789132603_o
Photo by Cheryl Stout
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Photo from the Salt Lake Tribune

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Photo by Cheryl Stout
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Photo by Janell Heck
*Edit: the two photos taken by Cheryl Stout were added on 11/14/16

Rape on University of Utah Campus

Many of you may have hear that on Monday, there was a rape on campus. A text from the University said:

“U police are seeking a suspect in an aggravated rape that occurred around 12:15 p.m. in the parking lot of the Merrill Engineering Building. The suspect was about 6 ft tall, wearing all black and a Halloween mask. If you have information about this crime, contact UUPD immediately at 801-585-2677”

The woman got into her car, but was forced at gunpoint into the back seat of her car where she was assaulted.

I know that many of the students at the U are processing this. It’s had a huge impact on our student body.

My heart goes out to the victim. I hope you are doing okay, and I hope that you find support in this time. I don’t know who you are, but if you happen to read this know that I am here for you and I support you.

I’ve been trying to understand this instance myself, and the best way I know how to do this is writing.

I am scared. This could have been anyone. This could have been me.

The fact that this happened in the middle of campus, in the middle of a crowded area, is shocking. How could nobody have noticed? I don’t understand.

Rape and sexual assault on college campuses is an epidemic. 1 in 4 women are sexually assaulted in college. 1 in 5 women are sexually assaulted in their lifetime.

This means that out of every four college girls you know, one of them will have experienced sexual assault.

This means that I have a 25 percent chance of being sexually assaulted while in college.

I have been. I know so many others that have been. And it sucks.

We need to change this. 1 in 4 is too high. 1 in 5 is too high. Any number of sexual assaults is too high.

I don’t know how to fix this. I don’t know how to go about it. I just know that it has to be changed.

If you have experienced sexual assault, the U of U’s Women’s Resource Center is a great resource for you: https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwjb6q_-1YrQAhVmxVQKHeglAfsQFggbMAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwomenscenter.utah.edu%2F&usg=AFQjCNHuvbSu74vupCV3ynoj2d9cst5_1Q&sig2=8ziYWV_orJgdSnOoSYBNVA&bvm=bv.137132246,d.cGc

Sources:

https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=5&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwiGn6nE1IrQAhVDwmMKHVSPDLAQFggvMAQ&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.nytimes.com%2F2011%2F12%2F15%2Fhealth%2Fnearly-1-in-5-women-in-us-survey-report-sexual-assault.html&usg=AFQjCNFy8NGCA-TZgbIC-wgqB_w6QB8GiQ&sig2=3WodEgeTdPSAWQjQlfWyxA&bvm=bv.137132246,d.cGc

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brian-earp/1-in-4-women-how-the-late_b_8191448.html