Heeding the Voice of the 99 Percent

When a group of young people camped out in Zuccotti Park near Wall Street in mid-September to express their disappointment toward the way corporations have mishandled the economy, it barely made the local newspapers’ front pages. Four weeks later, and with hundreds of thousands of people joining the movement, Occupy Wall Street has captured the attention of national and international media, and it has provided a golden opportunity for lawmakers, intellectuals, unions, and President Obama to channel the participants’ efforts into their agenda.

Inspired by the Arab Spring and the indignados from Madrid, Occupy Wall Street seeks to “restore democracy in America” by using one of the very tenets of our First Amendment: the right to peaceably assemble. NYPD and protesters, however, have clashed a number of times as newscasts and photographs show law enforcement officers making use of batons and pepper spray.

Undeterred, people are joining the protests in droves. Indeed, Occupy Wall Street has spun off other protests across the nation (from Boston to Washington, DC, to Memphis, among others), and it has served as an inspiration to many who also feel worn out by corporate greed and government inefficacy.

Not only do Occupy Wall Street protests take place in public spaces, but also on social media platforms: “We are the 99 Percent” is a Tumblr blog where people post notes and pictures depicting their economic hardship. Likewise, Jennifer Preston from The New York Times’ blog Media Decoder offers a by-the-numbers analysis of social media’s impact on the protests:

The online conversation about Occupy Wall Street grew steadily on social media platforms in recent weeks and increased among users abroad in the last week as the global demonstrations approached. According to Trendrr, a social media analysis company, the number of posts about Occupy Wall Street on Twitter outside the United States grew to more than 25 percent of total posts on Friday, up from 15 percent during the same period the week before.

One may think that equal opportunity for all is a fair claim, but political deadlock continues to push the country to the brink of hopelessness and despair. To make matters worse, the jobs bill proposed by President Obama stalled in Congress after a Republican filibuster, denying the chance for millions of unemployed Americans to regain economic mobility and make ends meet.

As some political experts have pointed out, Occupy Wall Street is not just about corporate malfeasance; it’s also about lack of adequate political representation in Capitol HillNinety-nine percent of the population is raising their voice in order to move our country forward with economic opportunities, education for everybody, and universal health care. Are Congress and the Obama administration listening?

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Heeding the Voice of the 99 Percent

When a group of young people camped out in Zuccotti Park near Wall Street in mid-September to express their disappointment toward the way corporations have mishandled the economy, it barely made the local newspapers’ front pages. Four weeks later, and with hundreds of thousands of people joining the movement, Occupy Wall Street has captured the attention of national and international media, and it has provided a golden opportunity for lawmakers, intellectuals, unions, and President Obama to channel the participants’ efforts into their agenda.

Inspired by the Arab Spring and the indignados from Madrid, Occupy Wall Street seeks to “restore democracy in America” by using one of the very tenets of our First Amendment: the right to peaceably assemble. NYPD and protesters, however, have clashed a number of times as newscasts and photographs show law enforcement officers making use of batons and pepper spray.

Undeterred, people are joining the protests in droves. Indeed, Occupy Wall Street has spun off other protests across the nation (from Boston to Washington, DC, to Memphis, among others), and it has served as an inspiration to many who also feel worn out by corporate greed and government inefficacy.

Not only do Occupy Wall Street protests take place in public spaces, but also on social media platforms: “We are the 99 Percent” is a Tumblr blog where people post notes and pictures depicting their economic hardship. Likewise, Jennifer Preston from The New York Times’ blog Media Decoder offers a by-the-numbers analysis of social media’s impact on the protests:

The online conversation about Occupy Wall Street grew steadily on social media platforms in recent weeks and increased among users abroad in the last week as the global demonstrations approached. According to Trendrr, a social media analysis company, the number of posts about Occupy Wall Street on Twitter outside the United States grew to more than 25 percent of total posts on Friday, up from 15 percent during the same period the week before.

One may think that equal opportunity for all is a fair claim, but political deadlock continues to push the country to the brink of hopelessness and despair. To make matters worse, the jobs bill proposed by President Obama stalled in Congress after a Republican filibuster, denying the chance for millions of unemployed Americans to regain economic mobility and make ends meet.

As some political experts have pointed out, Occupy Wall Street is not just about corporate malfeasance; it’s also about lack of adequate political representation in Capitol HillNinety-nine percent of the population is raising their voice in order to move our country forward with economic opportunities, education for everybody, and universal health care. Are Congress and the Obama administration listening?

See also:

Our Modern Family

On Sunday, the sit-com Modern Family won a well-deserved five Emmy awards, including one for best comedy series.  I’m a fan of the show, but can’t help thinking that it is a double-edged sword. 

The show depicts three inter-connected families who reflect a rich, 21st century American reality: a gay couple with an adopted Asian-American daughter, a spring/autumn marriage between a Colombian immigrant with a son and her much older Anglo husband, and a white heterosexual couple with three very different kids.  Part of the brilliance of the situation, of course, is that they are really just one family; the older husband is the grandfather of the Asian-American daughter, the step-father of the Latino son, and so on. 

 

 And the beauty of the show, beyond its smart writing and inspired acting, is that it largely portrays the family’s diversity as unremarkable.  They are mutually flawed and hilariously dysfunctional, but their problems and misadventures are mostly universal ones.  Mostly.

When he accepted his award, the show’s producer, Steve Levitan, told of being approached by a real-life gay couple who wanted to say thanks.  “You’re not just making people laugh,” they said, “you’re making them more tolerant.”
This is profoundly true.  Television has the power to bring new people into our homes and lives, to make us know and even love characters and situations that may have seemed foreign or frightening.  It has the power to make the “other” part of “us.” 

Over the past decade or so, Hollywood has begun to do so with LGBT characters and situations in ways that are creative, heartwarming, and important.  And there is little doubt that the dramatic rise in public support for LGBT human rights, and particularly marriage equality, is attributable in part to these depictions.

This change was the result of struggle.  In particular, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation has worked tirelessly to hold Hollywood accountable for bigoted, stereotypical depictions, while applauding it for positive ones.  Insiders note, also, that the progress of LGBT writers, producers, and actors in Hollywood has meant a presence and an authentic voice for characters who might have been written as offensive caricatures in past decades.

Which brings me to the other side of Modern Family.  Gloria, the Colombian immigrant wife on the show, played by Sofía Vergara, did increasingly become a caricature last season, and sometimes offensively so.  There is the increasing ridiculing of her accent and misinterpretation of English idioms that I thought went out with Ricky Ricardo.  But more troubling are the repeated implications that, as a Colombian, she devalues life, is accustomed to mayhem, and may be dangerous herself.  These are not so much perceptions that other characters have about her, but stereotypes that her character reaffirms through word and deed.

Modern Family has sometimes satirized racism as expertly as All in the Family ever did.  But when the writers repeatedly put in Gloria’s mouth lines about knowing how to use a knife or how to kill because she’s Colombian, they are feeding stereotypes, not roasting them.  And when Gloria responds to an ethnic slight from her husband by saying “Ah, here we go…Because, in Colombia, we trip over goats and we kill people in the street. Do you know how offensive that is? Like we're Peruvians!” they are saying, perhaps unintentionally, that stereotyping is OK because, hey, even the immigrants do it.  It’s a stark contrast to the show’s smarter moments, when it mocks bigotry instead of riding on its back.

On balance, Modern Family is likely doing more to advance inter-ethnic understanding than to undermine it, particularly in its clever portrayal of Gloria’s son, Manny, played by Rico Rodriguez.  Nor should we expect any sit-com to make audience enlightenment its prime objective, Norman Lear notwithstanding.  But if Steve Levitan and his colleagues are going to take credit for “making people more tolerant,” they must also take responsibility for the stereotypes and intolerance they may be sewing, particularly at a time when America is debating the future of millions of immigrants in our modern American family.

 

 

When Social Media and Cause Engagement for Minorities Come Together

The use of communications during the struggle for social justice in the United States is far from being a novelty. News spread quickly by word of mouth when black college students started a host of nonviolent sit-ins in several states almost 50 years ago, as The Washington Post’s Krissah Thompson noted. Today, civil rights activists, particularly African Americans and Hispanics, have found in social media a powerful channel to voice their support for a cause and generate cause engagement, according to a latest study by Georgetown University and Ogilvy PR Worldwide.

The study found that nearly one in three African-American adults (30 percent) and four in 10 Hispanics (39 percent) say “they’re more likely to support a cause or social issue online than offline,” whereas one in five (24 percent) of Caucasians expressed the same interest. Likewise, a slight majority of African Americans (58 percent) and Hispanics (51 percent) are more likely to believe that they can help spread the word “about a social issue or cause through online social networks” adding that they feel they’re part of a community by supporting causes online --compared to 34 percent of Caucasians.

The study goes on to say that, although television and print media are still regarded as reliable sources to learn about causes, both African Americans and Hispanics are significantly “more likely than Caucasians to look for social media as an additional source of information (31 and 27 percent versus 21 percent, respectively.)”

The Georgetown/Ogilvy study seems to corroborate a number of successful online campaigns within minority-oriented organizations. Color of Change, for example, is an online civil rights group that has proactively used a large email list of subscribers to champion causes like the fundraising to help reduce charges for a half-dozen young black men in Jena, LA in 2007. Also, the NAACP enhanced its webpage in 2009, started a new blog site, and has revamped its online advocacy list that hovers around 400,000 members.

Also, Thompson noted that a study by the Pew Internet & Family Life Projectfound an increasing preference among minority Internet users for Twitter, and in the past decade, “the proportion of Internet users who are black or Hispanic has nearly doubled—from 11 percent to 21 percent.”

Minorities’ zeal to join causes online signals the importance of social media for furthering civil rights, hence changing the nature of activism nowadays. And it’s proof that, even amid the latest display of partisanship in Washington, communities in the United States can find unity by way of technology.

 

 

When Social Media and Cause Engagement for Minorities Come Together

The use of communications during the struggle for social justice in the United States is far from being a novelty. News spread quickly by word of mouth when black college students started a host of nonviolent sit-ins in several states almost 50 years ago, as The Washington Post’s Krissah Thompson noted. Today, civil rights activists, particularly African Americans and Hispanics, have found in social media a powerful channel to voice their support for a cause and generate cause engagement, according to a latest study by Georgetown University and Ogilvy PR Worldwide.

The study found that nearly one in three African-American adults (30 percent) and four in 10 Hispanics (39 percent) say “they’re more likely to support a cause or social issue online than offline,” whereas one in five (24 percent) of Caucasians expressed the same interest. Likewise, a slight majority of African Americans (58 percent) and Hispanics (51 percent) are more likely to believe that they can help spread the word “about a social issue or cause through online social networks” adding that they feel they’re part of a community by supporting causes online --compared to 34 percent of Caucasians.

The study goes on to say that, although television and print media are still regarded as reliable sources to learn about causes, both African Americans and Hispanics are significantly “more likely than Caucasians to look for social media as an additional source of information (31 and 27 percent versus 21 percent, respectively.)”

The Georgetown/Ogilvy study seems to corroborate a number of successful online campaigns within minority-oriented organizations. Color of Change, for example, is an online civil rights group that has proactively used a large email list of subscribers to champion causes like the fundraising to help reduce charges for a half-dozen young black men in Jena, LA in 2007. Also, the NAACP enhanced its webpage in 2009, started a new blog site, and has revamped its online advocacy list that hovers around 400,000 members.

Also, Thompson noted that a study by the Pew Internet & Family Life Projectfound an increasing preference among minority Internet users for Twitter, and in the past decade, “the proportion of Internet users who are black or Hispanic has nearly doubled—from 11 percent to 21 percent.”

Minorities’ zeal to join causes online signals the importance of social media for furthering civil rights, hence changing the nature of activism nowadays. And it’s proof that, even amid the latest display of partisanship in Washington, communities in the United States can find unity by way of technology.

 

 

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