Let your voice be heard

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Standing Up for Colin Kaepernick

in Contemporary Politics/Political Issues by

When Colin Kaepernick knelt during the National Anthem to raise awareness for the “[oppression of] black people and people of color” in 2016, his protest elicited instantaneous backlash. Dubbed spoiled, selfish, and anti-American, Kaepernick felt the ramifications of his protest immediately: he was shortly benched for the remainder of the season and has not returned to the field since the season of his protests. The fervor of the backlash to his protests raged from talk show hosts to congressmen to, unsurprisingly, President Trump

For instance, consider the prominent Fox News host Jeanine Pirro’s reaction to Kaepernick’s protests. She questions whether “we have the fortitude, courage, and determination to stand up to those who threaten our values” in the context of the NFL protests. Her ominous inquisition begs a few questions: What values, exactly, does Pirro see threatened by Kaepernick’s protests? To whom is she referring with the collective pronoun ‘we’? The answer, sadly, has little to do with Kaepernick or his protest. Pirro knowingly implies that black people are “threatening” the status quo—which oftentimes favors white people above minorities. At its crux, the protests are rooted in seemingly non-controversial ideas (the idea that black people should be treated justly should not outrage anyone); however, the fact that they are coming from black Americans rather than white ones provokes widespread backlash and “threaten our values” —referring to the values of white Americans.  The backlash to the protests reveal a dark truth about America: white people still control most of the power and influence in this country, and they do not intend to cede their power. Pirro’s intimations are reminiscent of the ominous “you will not replace us” language of the Charlottesville’s white supremacist riots. Perhaps more troublingly, President Donald Trump recently describes his personal utopia as a fantasy world where NFL owners would say to protesting athletes, “Get that son of a b*tch off the field right now. Out. He’s fired!” There is nothing anti-American about expressing an opinion; however, using the presidency to silence an opinion runs counter to the most fundamental of American values. Unfortunately, Trump and Pirro are not anomalous exceptions in their reactions; they are part of a systemic pattern against challenges to the status quo, which, ironically, is exactly what the football players are protesting.

Kaepernick’s protests proved effective — Google reports Kaepernick was within the Top 10 most searched athletes of 2016, an especially difficult feat to achieve during an Olympics year.  Eventually, Kaepernick’s movement spread across the NFL — players and teams across the league unified in an attempt to use their platform to raise awareness to the largely ignored or underemphasized issue of the unfair treatment of black Americans, ranging from the police shootings of innocent black people to the flawed criminal justice system that puts black Americans at a significant disadvantage. His reputation tarnished and his career effectively over, Kaepernick incited further controversy when he was unveiled as the face of Nike’s newest advertisement campaign. While many praised Nike and the ad, others burned their Nike shoes and made #BoycottNike trend on Twitter.

Shortly after the announcement of Kaepernick as the face of their ad campaign, Nike released a video, narrated by and starring Kaepernick, which features numerous young athletes who have pursued their athletic dreams—often overcoming rough beginnings or physical disabilities to do so. In fact, Kaepernick is the only prominent person featured in the ad who is not featured demonstrating his athleticism. Rather, Kaepernick, once a starting NFL quarterback, now walks alone through a city, while the buildings behind him project the successes of the other athletes from the video—a woman wearing a Nike hijab, a refugee who played soccer in the world cup, a young Serena Williams, alongside others. The symbolism is powerful: Kaepernick, instead of quarterbacking, is ushering in a more diverse, inclusive sporting world.

Colin Kaepernick—like all other people—is not perfect. Perhaps he did not sacrifice everything in his protests. Perhaps he has used the traction from the movement he created to fill his pockets. Perhaps he did turn down an offer to play as a backup quarterback. Maybe not. But what he has done—and what SPEC so tirelessly strives to do—is start a conversation. Kaepernick, if nothing else, has sparked a movement that has challenged people to thoughtfully examine the treatment of black people. People often talk about the merits of sparking a conversation or protesting civilly. Kaepernick just did it.

Graphic Design by Jackson Edwards







The Problem with Housing

in Miscellaneous/Political Issues by

Houston Justice of the Peace Lincoln Goodwin sums up eviction as “If you did not pay, you cannot stay.” For minority communities, specifically the African American and Latinx communities in America, the issue of wealth disparity and systematic racism has incredible impacts on the housing, or lack thereof, that is available. In “the more than 4,500 evictions in the 77090 zip code” in Houston, TX, those evicted are “49 percent black and 30 percent Hispanic.” Eviction and poor housing are commonplace, rather than uncommon. Poor housing also isn’t simply unclean living conditions, but also numerous health code violations.  While legal protections exist to keep housing safe, only those on top of their rent are able to take advantage of these; many living in impoverished conditions do not have the luxury of paying their rent every month.

After Hurricane Harvey, tenants were told to pay rent or move out by landlords for unlivable apartments. The City of Houston allows landlords to continue to charge rent if a living area is still partially livable, and so many landlords continued to charge rent and late fees to people whose homes were devastated by flooding. Not only that, but for people who were unable to work during Harvey and thus weren’t paid, rental fees were still required. Those who couldn’t pay were evicted.

Evictions have increased steadily as rent prices soar but pay remains stagnant. In total, the number of eviction cases in Harris County, TX exceeded 68,000 for 2016. According to a MacArthur Foundation “How Housing Matters” study done in 2014 by Matthew Desmond, landlords in Milwaukee, WI evict roughly 16 households per day- and those are only the evictions done legally. Even more people are evicted through what are called “soft evictions”: the renters move out once they fall behind on rent, or landlords pressure, even threaten, tenants to leave without going through the court system.

Applicants to housing programs, especially ones run by the federal government, take years to make it to the top because the housing demand is far too great for the system. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) website even says “since the demand for housing assistance often exceeds the limited resources available to HUD and the local housing agencies, long waiting periods are common.” Evictions also significantly limit future housing options, as landlords are far less likely to rent to someone with a previous eviction. It seems strange that programs in place to help people who need housing box out those who have the greatest need for help.

Eviction seeps into nearly every aspect of life, through loss of possessions and constant moving. When people are turned out onto the street or move to a family’s house, they are only able to take the bare minimum of their possessions with them, forcing them to leave the rest on the street. Evicted families are also unlikely to stay in the same area, often moving as they try to find new housing. Children then bounce from school to school, leaving homework and their education by the wayside. Eviction completely disrupts life for those affected by it, and hardens the shell of poverty around the families affected by it. For the poorest renters in America, eviction is a fact of life, a cloud that hangs over their family each month. With little monetary assistance and increasingly higher rents, lower quality housing and higher rates of eviction have become the norm, rather than the exception.

Why should we, as the St. John’s community care? We spend more on school for a year than many of the people that deal with eviction spend in two years on housing. Government agencies focus on trying to stop homelessness or help people once they ARE homeless, instead of trying to confront the root of the problem- eviction. By pushing representatives — local, regional, and national— to commit themselves to creating better housing and improving rental terms, we are able to create a better city. As one of the most privileged groups in the city, we have quite a bit of responsibility to do our part.

The St. John’s community following Hurricane Harvey mobilized to help those of our community move out and begin the first steps of putting their lives back together. What could we accomplish as a community if we put that same energy towards helping those who have been affected by eviction? While we may not be able to use our manpower to the same extent, the links below can give you a forum to let you voice be heard. Write, and let your representatives know that YOU care about evictions, and the way in which it impacts our city.

Below is a link that allows you to input your address and it gives you the representatives for your district within the Texas State government, as well as national representatives:


Graphic Design by Jackson Edwards
Product of Errant Publishing Co.

Prioritizing Justice Over Civility

in Contemporary Politics/Political Issues by

No words resonate with the modern status of racial inequality more than those of Dr. Martin Luther King in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” Over 54 years ago, King reminded African Americans that the Negro’s greatest stumbling block in his stride toward freedom would be the white moderate. King defined this individual as more devoted to ‘order’ than to progress. The archetype of the moderate, an individual preferring an absence of tension over the presence of justice, appears in both the fiction of literature and the realities of our own history. President Donald Trump’s ambiguous response to the violence incited by a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville revealed Trump’s preference for American order over African-American justice. President Trump’s inexcusable behaviour demonstrates that acting on the grounds of civility with regards to racism prohibits social progress towards justice.  

In present day America, our nation’s foremost priority of civil order threatens social progress towards complete racial equality. In August of 2017, in response to the prejudice-motivated actions of a white nationalist group in Charlottesville, Virginia, President Trump blamed “many sides” for the “egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence.”* Yet, he failed to identify the Alt-Right white supremacist group as the sole perpetrators of this crime. By equating the blame “on both sides” instead of condemning the white-supremacists, Trump undermines the efforts of anti-racists protestors. Essentially, the President reduced the concerns of these individuals to avoid further disruption in Charlottesville. The President’s desire to placate racial animosity hinders the resolution of these recurring conflicts.

Trump, assuming the role of King’s white moderate archetype, prefers to silence the anger of African Americans rather than to combat the racist ideologies of their oppressors. In his initial remarks, Trump identified the anti-racist supporters as the “Alt-Left group,” criticizing that, unlike the Alt-Right group, these counter-demonstrators did not have a permit to protest in Charlottesville. Regardless of whether the anti-racists protesters violated this requirement, their actions to counter the hate-filled speech pervading Charlottesville deserved the President’s praise, not his criticism. Trump’s injection of moral equivalence into a situation of racial discrimination demonstrates his attempt to prioritize the law of the nation over justice for the nation’s African-American people. While other prominent politicians ardently denounced the actions of these white supremacists, Trump defended his moderate response by accusing “fake media” of never being satisfied. Even with backlash from his initial remarks, Trump insisted that “not all of [these protestors] were white supremacists.”  Despite their Confederate flags and “You will not replace us” posters, Trump concluded that these individuals were simply protesting “the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee,” later questioning “whether the movement to pull down [these] Confederate statues would lead to the desecration of memorials to George Washington.” If Trump were to denounce the cruelties of these white-supremacists, he would legitimize the anger of African-Americans and inspire more individuals to protest these injustices.

However, rather than recognizing the prejudiced truth behind their opposition, Trump justified their protests by dismissing the relevance of counter-protestors concerns. Rationalizing the issue of racial discrimination, Trump subverted all efforts toward social progress. Instead of using his platform to promote change, Trump exploited his power to undermine progressive movements and, in effect, prevent racial equality in America. Trump’s inability to condemn the evident acts of terror in Charlottesville perpetuated the culture of unspoken racism permeating in American society, denying justice to the African American community.

To obtain rightful justice, individuals must disregard the order which infiltrates their surroundings. By opting for social order when justice was required, Trump engaged in a form of covert racism which trivialized the problems of the black community under a false pretense of sustaining “order”. It is this “order” which prevented those silenced in Charlottesville from complete freedom.

Thus, disregard the institution. Renounce the plagued loyalties. Condemn the acts of racism. Equality can only be realized by transcending civility, shouting against the cruelties executed by the moderate, yelling and screaming, deafening the oppressor of justice.

*On August 12, 2017, while protesting the decided removal of a confederate statue in Charlottesville, Virginia, a supporter of the Alt-Right white-supremacist group rammed his car into a crowd of anti-racist counter-demonstrators, killing one young woman and injuring dozens.
Graphic Design by Frederique Fyhr

Mr. Jermaine Thibodeaux (Former SJS History Teacher) Podcast

in Podcasts by

Mr. Thibodeaux Speaks to Sam Faraguna about Confederate Statues, NFL Protests, and more.

Graphic Design by Jackson Edwards
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