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April 22, 2013 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2013-04-22

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4A - Monday, April 22, 2013

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

4A -MonayApri 22 203 Th Mihign Daly mihigadauyco

SMIitan 4a1*y
Edited and managed by students at
the University of Michigan since 1890.

Stigmatizing poverty

420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109


Unsigned editorials reflect the official position of the Daily's editorial board.
All other signed articles and illustrations represent solely the views of their authors.
On the wrong side of history
Public college requirements should encourage broad learning
bill filed by state Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston), aims to
restrict the scope of the six U.S. history credits required
to graduate from a public university in his state. If the bill
passes, students won't be able to satisfy their graduation require-
ments by taking ethnic or cultural history courses and will instead
be forced to choose a history course pertaining to "economy, poli-
tics, war and other significant events" according to a post on Pat-
rick's Facebook page. A case study by the National Association of
Scholars, titled "Recasting History: Is race, class and gender domi-
nating history?" explored the various history courses offered at the
University of Texas and Texas A&M University. Ultimately, it was
this report that motivated Patrick to file the short-sighted bill.

The English language con-
tains a host of words and
phrases meant to brand,
stereotype and
Chief among
these are the
various labels
set to describe
those who
"lack sufficient
money" - but, JAMES
instead of aptly BRENNAN
describing this
group of people,
we decide to use
words that effectively dehumanize
them. We call them poor, homeless,
destitute, impoverished, in need,
in want, lower-income, lower class,
broke, bankrupt and needy. In real-
ity, "the poor" are just people, albeit
with less money.
Our language, our culture and
our institutions have led to a char-
acterization of indigent people as
not just an underclass, but as dis-
tinctly differenthumanbeings infe-
rior to other members of society.
There's a tendency to describe "the
poor" as lazy, morally bankrupt
and a detriment to society. They're
characterized as criminals, junk-
ies and moochers, looking to make
money only by panhandling or tak-
inggovernment handouts.
These stereotypes are patently
false and insulting to millions of
hard-working people who simply
live under a different set of circum-
stances than some of us. Maybe
most Americans don't overtly think
of indigent people this way, but the
somewhat subconscious, reflexive
way that society stigmatizes "the
poor" - such as the lower prop-
erty values that automatically come
when a neighborhood has several
low-income people living in it - is
extremely harmful.
Negative perceptions of the poor .
lead to very similar consequences as
those experienced by black Ameri-

cans in pre-civil-rights America. them off and leave them with no way
The perception of blacks as lesser back to get back. "The ride" is just
people made whites demand sepa- another example of indigent people
ratism in schools, public places, being treated as lesser human beings
private businesses and housing. by society, forced out of a popular
This separation limited opportu- entertainment district because they
nities for blacks in education and make middle- and upper-income
work while feeding the stereotype people uncomfortable.
that black people were inherently Now I'm sure that no one likes
inferior to whites - a perception to be panhandled or bothered, but
prevalent in both black and white being poor is not a crime. Standing d
communities during the period. around on the streets because your
The exact same thing is hap- shelter is closed and you don't have a
pening with low-income people job in one of the worst recessions-in
now. The poor, for the most part, history doesn't justify police round-
live in separate neighborhoods, go ing you up and moving you out of
to separate schools, work separate sight. This type of law enforcement
jobs and live completely separate crackdown may be effective in mak-
lives. They're rarely the focus of ing parts of Detroit more appealing
television or mov- to young profes-
ies, and the media sionals and others
predominantly who could bring
caters to middle- Living on the streets in much needed
and upper-income use your shelter income for the city,
people while but it's a huge vio-
characterizing is closed doesn't lation of the civil
the poor mostly in . . . rights and civil
a negative light. justify polce action. liberties of some
The concept of the of the most vulner-
American promise able individuals
itself is harmful to - not to mention
the poor: It's the land of opportu- a group of people who have, for the
nity, where anyone who works hard most part, lived in the city for their
can get ahead. This breeds an ideol- entire lives.
ogy that says because indigent peo- There's a tendency in society to
ple aren't ahead, they must not be ignore indigent people, to write
working hard enough. This ignores them off as useless, lazy, criminal
the barriers to success that society individuals who bring down the rest
has put up all around them. of society. That's why it's always so
Just last week, we were hit with easy for politicians to advocate for
yet another example of the horrible cutting welfare, raising sales taxes
harm done by popular dehuman- and improving things for "the mid-
ization of the poor. The American die class" rather than the poor. You
Civil Liberties Union of Michigan and I are no better than indigent
conducted a yearlong investigation people, regardless of what the news,
in which they discovered a com- popular culture orpoliticians tell us.
mon occurrence that Detroit police volunteer at a soup kitchen, shelter
call "the ride." Officers force home- or warming center in Detroit, keep
less people in the Greektown area your mind open, and I'd be willing
of Detroit to hand over their spare to bet you'll feel the same way.
change and get into a police van. The
police proceed to drive them miles - James Brennan can be
away to the city's outskirts, drop reached at jmbthree@umich.edu.

The research conducted by the NAS seems
to be an overstep, as it marginalizes multicul-
turalism and ethnic studies. Proposing such a
drastic bill requires far more research. This
demonstrates a serious lack in understanding
the value of all types of history. Fundamental
to the study of history is a difference of opin-
ions, debate and case-specific research. The
teaching and learning of history would not
flourish in the restrictive environment this
bill would create.
In 2010, another bill in Texas was passed
making it mandatory for high-school students
to take two of the three social-science courses:
"United States History Studies Since 1877,"
"United States Government" and "Economics
with Emphasis on the Free Enterprise System
and Its Benefits." This structure is very broad
and adequately introduces students to Ameri-
can history before they graduate. Enforcing
Patrick's American history requirements on
college students would be counterproductive
and perhaps repetitive. Students attend col-

lege to expand their knowledge base, and they
should not be restricted to take certain history
classes while barred from others.
Furthermore, if the bill is passed, some
experienced professors who are renowned in
their field of research will be ignored. Classes
such as "History of Mexican Americans in the
U.S." and "The Black Power Movement" that,
according to the NAS report, are being taught
right now at University of Texas and Texas
A&M wouldn't count towards the American
history requirement for students to graduate.
This doesn't only avoid the study of diverse
communities, but this requirement would also
restrict students' options and limit their expo-
sure to a diverse array of topics. What Pat-
rick fails to realize is that these cultural and
ethnic topics are wide-ranging because they
surpass the borders of our nation. Ignoring
ethnic minorities and different cultures isn't
just undervaluing these groups, but denying
students the knowledge and tools they need in
such an intercultural, globalized world.

#therealm *c igandifference

Kaan Avdan, Sharik Bashir, Barry Belmont, Eli Cahan, Eric Ferguson, Jesse Klein,
Melanie Kruvelis, Maura Levine, Patrick Maillet, Sam Mancina,
Aarica Marsh, Megan McDonald, Jasmine McNenny, Harsha Nahata,
Adrienne Roberts, Paul Sherman, Sarah Skaluba, Michael Spaeth,
Daniel Wang, Luchen Wang, Derek Wolfe
Justice delayed 1s Justice denied

Imprisoned in aBirmingham jail cell, Mar-
tin LutherKing, Jr. reflected,"Justice too long
delayed is justice denied." Indeed, it's this
exact sentiment that we hold in our hearts
this week as we look forward to both the fifti-
eth anniversary of the March on Washington
for Jobs and Freedom in August, and the two-
year anniversary of the closure of PT Kizone,
an Indonesian factory that produced Adidas
apparel for the University of Michigan.
The Worker Rights Consortium, a labor
watchdog organization, first reported on
Adidas' refusal to pay $1.8 million in legally
owed severance to 2,700 Indonesian workers
soon after the closure of the PT Kizone fac-
tory in April 2011. For two years now, Adidas
hasn't budged on the issue of severance, even
though its contracts with various universi-
ties across the nation - including the Univer-
sity of Michigan - require that Adidas take
responsibility for paying its subcontracted
factory workers legally mandated benefits.
Adidas' intransigence is all the more alarm-
ing when compared to the actions of Nike.
Nike was also producing in PT Kizone at the
time of the factory's closure but, unlike Adi-
das, Nike complied with the WRC's recom-
mendation and agreed to pay $1.5 million in
severance to the former PT Kizone workers.
Denying workers their legally owed sever-
ance pay for two years certainly falls under
King's definition of "justice too long delayed."
With each passing day, the former PT Kizone
workers are continually denied their rights.
And this delayed justice has real consequenc-
es. In a survey conducted by the WRC, 87
percent of former PT Kizone workers report
that since the factory's closure, they have
been unable to afford food that meets their
families' basic nutritional needs. Most have
fallen behind on rent and children's school
fees. When asked how they were dealing with
health care, most workers reported that they
couldn't afford to see any kind ofmedical pro-
fessional and could only buy over-the-coun-
ter medication from a neighborhood vendor.
These are only a few of the laundry list of
hardships former PT Kizone workers face
on a daily basis as a direct result of Adidas'
refusal to pay their legally-owed severance.
Yet, fearless and unwavering workers

and students have matched Adidas' ruth-
less inhumanity with fierce determination.
This week at Adidas headquarters in Ger-
many, PT Kizone workers are delivering a
petition demanding their legally owed sev-
erance signed by nearly a thousand former
workers. This is a campaign of international
proportions; former PT Kizone workers have
joined in solidarity with other Adidas work-
ers across the world, from Honduras to Haiti
to India, to take on the company's sweatshop
supply chain. And the capacity for change is
United Students Against Sweatshops, the
national organization spearheading this cam-
paign, knows that, based on past victories,
university actions can force Adidas to change
its ways. In 2009, 25 universities across the
country cut contracts with uniform supplier
Russell Athletic until the company agreed to
re-open a union factory and implement union
neutrality throughout its Honduran plants. In
2010, contract terminations compelled Nike
to pay more than $2 million in severance pay
to 1,800 Honduran garment workers. Today,
the University has the historic opportunity
to be a part of a global movement for brand
responsibility, human rights promotion and
worker solidarity.
United Students Against Sweatshops at
the University of Michigan is demanding
that University President Mary Sue Coleman
stand in solidarity with these workers by cut-
ting ties with Adidas due to the company's
past of worker abuse and negligence of human
rights. Ten universities have already termi-
nated their contracts with Adidas, including
big-name sports schools like the University of
Washington, Pennsylvania State University
and Georgetown University. The University
of Michigan should be next.
Each day the University waits to take
action, another' PT Kizone worker's fam-
ily falls deeper into debt and poverty. As this
week marks the two-year anniversary of Adi-
das' workers struggle for justice, USAS asks
University President Mary Sue Coleman to
recall MLK's words, and to cut ties with Adi-
das over its flagrant denial of justice.
Maya Menlo is an LSA sophomore.

Whenever anything note-
worthy happens in rela-
tion to the University,
someone out -
there is certain
to tweet about it
and tack on the
obligatory #the-
As of late, The
Michigan Dif-
ference's online HEMA
presence has KARUNA-
been reduced KARA
to sophomoric
tales such as "fed
a squirrel on the Diag" or "chugged
four Natty Lights before 8 a.m. on a
football Saturday." Originally start-
ed as a marketing and fundraising
campaign, the real intention of The
Michigan Difference is to highlight
the great impact that Michigan's
students, faculty and staff have in
the world.
Since the campaign was launched
in 2005, these three words have
been used (and misused) every-
where to set the bar for achieve-
ment and success among everyone
on this campus. From the moment
freshmen set foot in the Carl Milles
Fountain outside the Michigan
League during orientation, they are
expected to become a part of The
Michigan Difference. In fact, just
getting in to this University means
they already are The Michigan Dif-
ference. And every internship or
job they get where they beat out
the rest of the crowd helps them be
The Michigan Difference. And once
they graduate, they'll be a part of
the largest alumni network in the
world - that is, The Michigan Dif-
ference. And one day, they'll join
the ranks of Gerald Ford, Arthur
Miller and James Earl Jones as they
make a positive impact on soci-
ety and they'll have achieved The
Michigan Difference.
While in all fairness I feel
extremely proud and honored to be
a Wolverine whenever I hear such
great tales, I have to wonder if we
set the bar too high. The Michigan
Difference undoubtedly exists, but
by focusing so much on achiev-
ing that difference, on being of
importance to society, on changing

the world - are we losing sight of conversations I've had with those
something more important? three won't. That's value.
I recently landed a really great The first professor I ever had at
engineering co-op, and as excited Michigan, Gavin LaRose, is to date
as I initially was, it's just start- still the best one in my opinion. But
ing to sink in that I'll be gone for it wasn't that I loved calculus that
a while. Doing a co-op means tak- much. It's the personal touch that
ing a semester off, so I'll be out of Gavin added to his lectures, how he
the state for six months. I won't went out of his way to learn all of
see everything in this campus that our names, the fact that three years
means so much to me until January. later, I still remember Stoke's theo-
it's OK, though, because I'm fur- rem just because he was so excited
thering my career goals and getting to teach it. That's value.
closer to that dream job where I'm I went home this past weekend
providing real value to society. Isn't and ran into several members of
that what the College of Engineer- my community who've watched me
ing wants me to do? grow up. I don't remember exactly
Focus on the goal. Think about what we talked about, but I do know
the difference you want to make how excited they all were to see
in the world. Work hard enough me nearing the end of my college
in your classes career already,
so that your GPA and how much
doesn't hold you faith they had that
back. Get involved. Be the best person I was poised to be
Build an impres- successful. That's
sive resume. Get you can be now. Your value.
the perfect intern- legacy will fill those Where do you
ship for the perfect see The Michigan
job for the perfect footprints over time. Difference really
life. Be The Michi- impacting your
gan Difference. life? You have
Sound familiar? to bring value to
It's not just the College of Engi- those around you before you can
neering. Nearly every academic dis- even begin to change the world.
cipline forces down the idea that we I have my whole life to keep net-
need to work hard to become lead- working, job-hunting and improv-
ers in our field. Even campus orga- ing my skills. The University might
nizations that are the livelihoods of challenge me to leave a legacy, but
so many students often push us to today those personal connections
feel the need to leave behind a leg- are more important. The Michigan
acy. I know I've fallen into this trap Difference trickles out from each of
over the years, the trap of expect- those connections, whether they're
ing the effect before fully executing with family and friends at home or
the cause. This is Michigan fergod- peers and teachers on this campus.
sakes and upon graduation we're College is tough, and "the real
supposed to do something great world" is tougher, but it isn't a race.
with our lives. After all, we go to the 12th best uni-
But it takes baby steps. We can't versity in the world and every day
just leave here and change the world we're surrounded by diversity, pas-
in one fell swoop. We're taught to sion and opportunity. There's noth-
believe we must bring value to soci- ing wrong with walking through it
ety, but it might do us all well to all slowly, really stopping to get to
consider who really brings us value. know people and know yourself.
Eight students were arrested That's the real Michigan Differ-
last week during a protest on cam- ence. So stop running and be the
pus organized by the Coalition for best person you can be right now.
Tuition Equality. While their cause Your legacy will fill those foot-
is undoubtedly admirable, the fact prints over time.
that I knew three of them person-
ally was what really struck me. The - Hema Karunakaram can be
headlines fade, but the impassioned reached at khema@umich.edu.

Readers are encouraged to submit letters to the editor and viewpoints.
Letters should be fewer than 300 words while viewpoints should be 550-850 words.
Send the writer's full name and University affiliation. to tothedaily@michigandaily.com.

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