In March, Ithaca High School held its annual Social Justice Week, a weeklong presentation series in which students had the chance to learn about relevant social justice issues from experts in the field. Of course, more social justice issues exist than could be covered in the span of a week. Here are 5 more topics that IHS students feel passionate about.
Ending Unfair Treatment of Palestine
By ISAIAH GUTMAN, Staff Writer
In this politically divided time, there may be no more contentious issue than the Israel-Palestine conflict. Ever since the UN granted a state to the Jewish people, there has been tension in and around the nation. Arab countries have been angry about a “Western” presence in their region, warring with Israel multiple times. Israelis have also been skeptical of the intentions of their neighbors, and have extended this attitude towards the Palestinian Arabs in their country. While each side can be said to be at least partly at fault for the present tensions in the region, especially the militant Palestinian group Hamas, the people in each country should not be punished for the folly of their leaders.
For Israel, Netanyahu and his Likud government clearly are too hard-set against the Arab population, being unwilling to grant them full statehood. They have been intruding into Palestinian territory by building Israeli settlements, and they continue to inadequately represent Palestinians in the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament. At the same time, Hamas and Fatah carry out attacks on Israel with their armed factions, at times forcing the hand of a Jewish state that can understandably feel concerned as the sole nation of its kind in the region. Both sides are skeptical of each other’s’ intentions. Seventy-two percent of Israeli Arabs say the Israeli government is not looking for peace, but what is more telling is that 40 percent of them doubt that the Palestinian government is sincere about peace efforts. Similar attitudes can be seen on the Jewish side, with 40 percent saying their own government doesn’t want peace and 88 percent saying the Palestinian government is not to be trusted on the issue.
Whatever the mistakes of the governments, all people should be able to have a country of their own, especially when they are so concentrated in an area where they have historically lived. It is for this reason that I support working towards a solution to grant the Palestinian people living in Israel far more autonomy, both through creating fair representation for the Palestinian people and hopefully in subsequently creating a separate Palestinian state.
Ending the Gender Wage Gap
By EMILY MYATNOE
Worldwide, the gender wage gap is a pressing issue that discriminates between women and men despite both genders being equal in qualification and experience in the workplace. The gender wage gap is the measure of the difference between the amount of money women and men make. A common way of expressing this gap is showing how much an equally qualified woman is paid per each dollar a man makes, which in the U.S. is a shocking 79 cents. Not only do women make less than men, but black women make 66 cents and Hispanic women make 55 cents per each dollar men make. According to a study done by the American Association of University Women (AAUW), this pay gap causes white women to lose approximately $500,000 over the span of a 40-year career, black women to lose close to $900,000, and Hispanic women to lose a little more than $1 million on average. Some will deny the existence of this wage gap and call it a hoax, but the proof is in the numbers.
The reality of women being paid less than men for the same work is completely wrong and should not be tolerated in this day and age. We live in a world in which oppression against women and people of color still exists, even in a first-world country like the U.S. Raising awareness and speaking out are necessary to ending the mentality that women are less than men and that a person of color is less than a white person. Ending the wage gap is tremendously important to me because growing up in the diverse community of Ithaca, I have met so many powerful and intelligent women of color, and women in general who may ultimately grow up to work at a job where they are paid less than their male coworkers for the exact same work.
Ending Private Prisons
By VAYNU KADIYALI
One of the biggest domestic social justice issues today is the continued use of private prisons. Private prisons are for-profit prisons in which the right to house criminals is sold by the government to a private contractor. In short, they make money by locking people up, which incentivizes cost-cutting measures and inhumane overcrowding to maximize profits. Prisoners have commonly reported being underfed and fed low-quality food, being transported to prisons in unroadworthy and unheated vehicles, living in prison cells far exceeding maximum occupancy, and having false behavior reports presented to judges to extend their incarcerations. These all maximize profit for private prison companies and reduce the credibility of the American justice system. In Georgia, for example, not only do some municipalities use private prisons, but an infamous case has arisen where municipalities turn to private probation companies to collect debts owed to municipal courts and carry out actions demanded by these courts. In Georgia’s White County, the Sentinel company was reported to have given an absurd 12 months of probation to two women who could not procure the full fines owed to their city court. The company reportedly forced them to pay for very expensive drug tests, in addition to structuring debt payments that would last for many years. Some debtors to Sentinel have reported having to sell their blood plasma to pay their hefty fees, a truly unfair outcome that speaks to the severity of this issue. Thankfully, the White County case was successfully challenged by the Southern Poverty Law Center, but the practice of private probation is still legal in 12 states.
We cannot function as a society and expect justice to be served when this incredibly cruel and unjust practice is still pervasive in the United States. We must lobby our representatives, educate others on the topic, and support organizations like the aforementioned Southern Poverty Law Center in their efforts to ensure that all convicts are treated fairly.
Child Sex Tourism Prevention
By VEDA CHICKERMANE
All over the world, child sex tourism is a huge economic business, victimizing about two million children worldwide. Child sex tourism is tourism for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity with children—one of the worst possible forms of child abuse. One common way children get involved in this business is through child trafficking, the act of kidnapping or enslaving children for the sole purpose of sexual work. The other major reason behind this booming business is extreme poverty. Children are promised money for their participation and rely on the sale of their bodies as a source of income for their families.
To prevent child sex tourism, governments must enact stronger regulations of the industry. Offenders often fall through the cracks and escape prosecution, largely through prevalent corruption in law enforcement agencies in nations where child sex tourism is rampant. Although the Child Sex Tourism Prevention Project of 2006 was a step in the right direction, no clear international prevention act has worked.
Together, we need to work together to combat this issue. Although global awareness and government intervention are the logical first steps to combating sex tourism, non-governmental organization (NGO) support is needed to help children. Operation Underground Railroad and Equality Now are two examples of effective NGOs that work with law enforcement in countries to save children and prosecute sex offenders, while also carefully avoiding the contentious issue of protection of national sovereignty. Giving more financial aid to refugee camps, raising awareness in nations where child sex tourism is rampant, and starting social media or grassroots campaigns are steps we can take to end this severe violation of children’s rights.
Improving Education Quality for Native American Communities
By TONY YANG
For the past century, Native Americans have been presented with a multitude of social challenges and lack of opportunities in the United States. Most consequentially, Native Americans have struggled with extremely ineffective education policies. School districts on reservations face an acute shortage of teachers and educational resources, which leads to an incredibly low graduation rate and poverty-related social issues. The lack of adequate education for Native Americans has hindered their opportunities and ability to progress in the past decades. Without sufficient education and opportunity, Native American reservation communities have among the nation’s highest rates of suicide and teenage pregnancy and lowest life expectancies. Additionally, a large percentage of Native Americans are strained by poverty on a daily basis. Nearly a quarter of all Native Americans live below the poverty line, which especially affects the upbringing of children.
There is an urgent need for us to work with Native American communities to improve the quality of education on reservations. Incentivizing teachers to train and work on reservations and ensuring that students have sufficient resources to remain healthy and active is a necessary step to solving this problem. It is also essential that Native Americans have better job opportunities to help communities leave the cycle of poverty that has plagued them for over a century. These solutions are only the beginning to solving the problems Native Americans have experienced for years.