Our weekly roundup of what we’re reading in human rights and social justice! This week’s Rights Reading includes articles about our partner organization ACRE, injustice for Indigenous students, and DACA.
This video profiles the work of Catherine Flowers, founder of the Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise (ACRE), an organization we are partnering with to advocate for environmental justice and build sustainable septic systems in Lowndes County, Ala., which is just outside of Montgomery.
Ablow explains how Catherine Flowers, upon returning to her hometown in Lowndes County for the 35th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery marches, learned that many low-income residents were facing arrest and eviction because they couldn’t afford to install septic systems on their property.
Flowers, who had been teaching outside of Alabama for years, organized against the criminalization of her community and raised money to install septic systems. However, the septic systems turned out to be inadequate for the specific kind of soil in the area. Now, through ACRE, “Flowers is building coalitions to tackle the problems in Lowndes County — calling upon community members, academics, business leaders and government agencies to develop sustainable solutions together,” Ablow writes.
There is still a lot of work to be done. Ablow writes, “Improper sewage treatment is putting people at risk of diseases usually found only in the developing world.” UUSC is so proud to partner with ACRE to bring justice to these Alabaman communities—watch the video below!
Indigenous youth across the United States are being let down by our public education system, which increasingly criminalizes young people of color. Students face bullying from peers while simultaneously being disciplined more by teachers. They are suspended more than any other racial group, attend low-quality, alternative virtual education classes at higher levels, and their dropout rate is double the national average. Clarren writes, “Many tribal leaders and education experts say these dismal statistics reflect, at worst, overt discrimination—and, at best, the alienation that Native students feel in a school system that has few Native teachers overall as well as limited lessons on Native American history and culture.”
This is a failure of the United States to honor the promises we made to provide public services for Indigenous communities that we have stripped of land. As Clarren argues, absolutely does come down to systemic racism: “Even when researchers control for poverty, race still determines whether students are more harshly disciplined in the public-school system.”
The solution? Clarren calls for more research, an increase in Native American teachers, and mandating that Indigenous Education is taught more in public schools. Fostering more inclusive learning environments is the key, and giving both teachers and students an education on Indigenous history and culture is the next step.
Ending This Immigration Program Would Devastate the Economy, Julissa Arce, Fortune Magazine, July 21, 2017
In this article, Arce discusses the economic importance of the Deferred Actions for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) that currently protects 800,000 immigrant youth from deportation and allows them to work legally in the United States.
DACA recipients represent a big section of economic growth: they’re going to college, getting high-skill jobs, starting businesses, buying houses and cars. Arce cites a 2016 Center for American Progress study, which estimates that the United States’ GDP would decrease by more than $400 billion over ten years if the DACA program ends.
Arce makes this defense of DACA in the wake of two opposing political moves: Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is leading the call to end the program, while a new Dream Act – a bipartisan effort to give immigrant youth a path to citizenship – was introduced in Congress two weeks ago. Arce calls on President Trump to support immigrant youth and invest in the future: “We all grew up watching the same TV shows, playing the same games, studying American history, and eating hot dogs and ice cream. We have the same dreams as so many Americans: going to college, getting a job we love, and spending time with our families and friends.”
Other headlines that were shared around the UUSC office this week:
- UUA President: Transgender Ban is Blatant Discrimination, UUA, July 27, 2017
- A Veteran ICE Agent, Disillusioned with the Trump Era, Speaks Out, Jonathan Blitzer, The New Yorker, July 24, 2017 (paywall)
- Health Care Is Still in Danger, Paul Krugman, The New York Times, July 24, 2017 (note Angela Kelly, Senior Associate for Justice Training at UUCSJ protesting in the picture!)
- Philippine Congress Extends Martial Law in Besieged Region, Felipe Villamor, The New York Times, July 22, 2017