ANTI-SEMITISM IN THE US

Anti-Semitism, for those who are unaware, is prejudice against Jews. Judaism is the least liked religious group in the world, with only 38% favorability, according to @soyouwanttotalkabout on Instagram. Additionally, Jewish people only make up 3% of the United States’ population, and 74% of people worldwide have never met a Jewish person.

The Anti-Defamation League has reported a 12% increase of acts of assault, vandalism, and harassment against Jewish people over the previous year. This is also the highest level of anti-Semitic incidents since the organization began reporting in 1979. In August of 2017 there was a “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia where participants were throwing Nazi salutes, waving flags with swastikas, as well as shouting “Seig Heil” and “Jews will not replace us.”

More examples of anti-Semitism include a Jewish center in Delaware being lit on fire, two Jewish men being violently run over in Brooklyn, and many attacks on Jewish synagogues and cemeteries in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Virginia, and California. A study by the American Jewish Committee reported 35% of American Jews said they’ve experienced anti-Semitism in the past five years, with one-third concealing outward indication of their Judaism. I could go on and list more instances of anti-Semitism, but I don’t need to. As demonstrated by research, it is indisputable anti-Semitism is at an all-time high.

According to The Atlantic, “Some critics attribute the recent spate of anti-Semitic violence, at least indirectly, to the rise of Donald Trump, a charge that reflects the deep political and cultural divide in American society. They say that his rhetoric and tweets, his targeting of minorities, his bullying and name-calling have created an atmosphere conducive to such attacks.”

I have a hard time disagreeing with the quote from The Atlantic for many reasons, but some of which comes from last night’s Presidential Debate in which President Trump refused to denounce white supremacy. He won’t denounce white supremacy just like he won’t denounce anti-Semitism because he has supporters who fall into these two categories. He creates an environment that makes these groups feel protected and supported, which is permissive and extremely dangerous for the victims of these groups.

In conclusion, the United States’ anti-Semitism is an issue that cannot be blamed entirely on a political leader. Historically, anti-Semitism thrives when there is social unrest– the epitome of this year (and presidential campaign.) The concept of anti-Semitism is not new and Jews have been targeted and blamed since the beginning of time, and I hope the world can fight for this marginalized community like they do for others.

ICE ALLEGED HYSTERECTOMIES

A whistleblower has alleged that hysterectomies were being performed on immigrants in the US without consent. A hysterectomy is a surgical removal of the uterus and potentially other reproductive organs. The allegations are said to have taken place at the private Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia.

The whistleblower, identified as nurse Dawn Wooten, expressed concern about the high number of hysterectomies being performed on Spanish-speaking women in the area. These hysterectomies are said to be performed by gynecologist Mehendra Amin, who Wooten heard one migrant woman refer to as the “uterus collector.” Amin, however, denies these allegations and claims to have only performed “one or two” hysterectomies in the past two or three years.

The women said they were never told why they were having the hysterectomies, “with some saying that they were given conflicting reasons for the procedures or reprimanded when asked about them,” according to The Guardian. Luckily, several of the women are being represented by lawyers. Pauline Binam, a former detainee, said her fallopian tubes were removed without consent.

While these are only allegations and it would be premature to draw any conclusions, it is very serious, and if true, is a huge failure of a country that bases itself on freedom and justice for all. Additionally, this is a situation that has the potential to bring pro-life and pro-choice communities together, and I’d like to see both sides equality upset.

How to help:

  • Text “SIGN AHZJLZ” to 50409
  • Call your representative to demand an investigation (find their phone number at commoncause.org)
  • Donate to Project South

THE BEIRUT BLAST

Last week, Lebanon, a country in the Middle East, suffered a port explosion in their capital of Beirut. According to an article by BBC, at least 70 people have been killed and over 4,000 others injured. Officials are naming the cause as stored, highly explosive materials in a warehouse, specifically, “by the detonation of 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored unsafely at the port for years,” although an investigation is underway to confirm or disprove this.

Previous to the explosion, Lebanon was in economic crisis– their worst one since the 1975-1990 civil war. A plan was proposed in 2019 to tax calls via WhatsApp to gain more revenue, but this led to mass protests and turmoil. At this time, Prime Minister Hassan Diab had only been in power two months having been elected following an uprising.

Many have been frustrated about the country’s corrupt government and see the explosion as a government failure. The Lebanese president, Michel Aoun, tweeted that the amount of ammonium nitrate stored was “unacceptable.” Protesters have been out on the streets following the explosion, which was the final straw for many of Beirut’s people.

The Lebanese government has resigned in the wake of the blast to “stand with the people.” The next elected prime minister will be Lebanon’s third this year. Despite this, many Lebanese citizens question if it will actually bring about change. Parliament’s decision to choose a new prime minister is not expected to be a timely or pleasant one because of the government’s complicated political system.

300,000 citizens have been made homeless with nearly 80,000 children misplaced. Lebanon also hosts the largest number of refugees per capita– approximately 1.5 million Syrian refugees. The country’s health system is weak, made worse by COVID-19 and now with overwhelmed hospitals from the blast.

Lebanon’s prime minister has asked for international help. If you’re able to, please donate to any of these resources: https://helplebanon.carrd.co/

THE YEMEN CRISIS

The republic of Yemen is a country located in the Middle East, specifically at the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. In 2018, they had a reported population of 28.5 million people. Right now, the country is experiencing the world’s worst humanitarian crisis in the midst of a civil war.

Yemen’s civil war began in 2014 when Houthi rebels took control of the country’s capital city, Sanaa. After unsuccessful negotiations, rebels seized the presidential palace. The president resigned and violence persisted between the Yemeni government and the UAE. The country has experienced unlawful, Saudi-led coalition airstrikes, attacks on civilians, bombings of hospitals, schools, mosques, and more.

Already fragile prior to civil conflicts, Yemen’s economy was not equipped to handle the current humanitarian crisis that has only exacerbated their vulnerabilities. According to an article by Aljazeera, “Tens of thousands have been killed, an estimated four million displaced and 80 percent of the country’s 29 million people are dependent on aid for survival.” The United Nations World Food Programme reports nearly 10 million people are facing acute food shortages.

Almost 18 million people don’t have enough clean water or access to adequate sanitation. They’re facing the world’s largest cholera outbreak, racking up more than 2 million cases since 2016, and are of course being affected by COVID-19. UNICEF reports only half of the country’s health facilities are functioning and that many of the ones operating lack basic equipment.

Often, pregnant women don’t have access to hospitals. “Women and children are disproportionately affected by the near complete collapse of health services. Our objective is to save lives and eventually rebuild the health care system. For far too many people, time is running out,” says Rabih Torbay, president and CEO of Project HOPE.

Yemen needs help, and has needed it for a long time. The news coverage on this issue– the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, is extremely minimal in the US. They’re facing a cholera outbreak, COVID-19, a civil war, and a humanitarian crisis all at the same time. Yemen belongs to its people and to them only, not the Houthi or Saudi Arabia.

The UN is trying to raise $2.4 billion for aid to Yemen and has yet to reach their goal. If you have the means, please consider donating to one the donation link in this Google Document that also includes petition links, email templates, and educational resources. In addition, you can play a multiple-choice quiz game on freerice.com (or on the Freerice app) which donates 10 grams of rice to people in need via the UN’s World Food Programme for every right question.

VEGETARIANISM/VEGANISM

The meat industry largely contributes to climate change. It affects air and water quality, ocean health, and greenhouse gas emissions. Beef production, specifically, creates “28, 11, 5, and 6 times more land, irrigation water, greenhouse gases, and nitrogen, respectively, than the average of the other livestock categories” according to PNAS. Not only does the meat industry have a well established carbon footprint, it uses a catastrophic amount of water. More than 2,4000 gallons of water are required to produce a single pound of meat. For perspective, only 25 gallons are needed to produce a pound of wheat. According to PETA (calm down anti-vegetarian people, it’s just an organization), you can save more water by not eating a pound of meat than you can by not showering for six months.

The global livestock industry produces more greenhouse gas emissions than all planes, cars, ships, and trains combined. A report from Our World by the United Nations University states that twice as many people believe transportation to be the bigger contributor to global warming, though we see that’s not true. The report’s lead author believes “tackling meat and dairy consumption” is dependent on preventing catastrophic warming.

The argument of animal abuse as support for vegetarianism/veganism doesn’t reach many people, but it reaches me, and is something I feel absolutely necessary to include. “Factory farming” is a term used to describe intensive animal farming or industrial livestock production. The goal of factory farms is to maximize production and minimize cost, at the expense of the livestock. They’re squeezed into cages and boxes so small they can’t move, are fed antibiotics to make them grow faster and be kept alive in unsanitary conditions, and usually face a cruel death while completely conscious. In the dairy industry, female cows are artificially inseminated and separated from their calves at birth. The second they stop producing milk, they’re inseminated again. It’s a vicious cycle.

If you don’t care about the environment and our only planet, or animal rights, then hopefully you care about yourself. A plant based diet, according to MD Anderson Cancer Center, has consistently proven over two decades that it reduces your risk for cancer. It’s important to note a “plant-based diet” doesn’t remove meat completely, but is focused around vegetables, whole grains, and fruits. This type of diet also supports your immune system, reduces inflammation, and can help you maintain a healthy weight. So, for anyone who is hesitant to completely cut out meat, this diet is still helpful to the environment because it calls for less meat consumption, but it’s also helping you.

As for dairy, it’s one of the top sources of artery-clogging saturated fat in the American diet. An analysis published by the British Medical Journal found that most studies do not show any relationship between dairy intake and broken bones or fractures. Dairy consumption is also linked to lung, breast, and ovarian cancers.

I could speak a lot more on this topic, but I want to keep it short because I’m sure I got a lot of eyerolls. Moral of the story: the meat, livestock, and dairy industries are contributing to killing our planet. Meat is not necessary for a healthy human diet– there is protein in foods like quinoa, tofu, beans and legumes, vegetable, nuts, and so much more; and you definitely don’t need need to be drinking another animal’s milk.

I highly recommend documentary What the Health on Netflix. It digs into the relationship between diet and health and could be the inspiration you need to begin a vegan, vegetarian, or plant-based diet. Try cutting out an animal product one at a time or eat less of it– it all helps. And lastly, don’t hate on other people for their diet, whether it includes animal products or not. You’re only responsible for your actions, and I can guarantee unsolicited advice isn’t helpful. Love our planet!

I like this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NxvQPzrg2Wg&t=185s

VOLUNTOURISM: WHY MISSION TRIPS DO MORE HARM THAN GOOD

This post is not about faith and that isn’t a topic I want to discuss on here, but being that Christian-led mission trips are the subject of voluntourism, it will come into the picture. I am a Christian and was raised in the Catholic community. I even have a small memory of going on a church-led mission trip to an orphanage in Mexico when I was a child. I respect all beliefs and don’t think who you pray to, or don’t pray to, is any of my business nor does it matter. The reason I begrudgingly say this is so it’s clear this is not sh*t post against Christians; I am one, and religion has nothing to do with the following message.

Voluntourism is a term used to describe when people travel overseas to volunteer. For example, mission trips. People pay thousands of dollars to travel and lodge at overseas country, stay for a week or two to complete a “project,” like build a church and complete evangelistic work, and then leave. It’s a billion dollar industry. I have questioned the intentions of people on these trips, but I can’t give you an answer. I assume and like to think the majority of these missionaries have good, pure intentions, but the concept of it all begs the question of how much good is really being done.

One of the most common mission trip “projects” is construction. The part about this that’s wrong to me is there are local people and professionals who are willing and able to do the job. Jobs could have been created for the community by the construction of a “project.” But alas, missionaries fly thousands of miles and spend thousands of dollars to do a job that could’ve been completed without their presence. Not to mention, constructing a classroom isn’t a job that requires people from another country to fly in, it’s fairly simple. This takes opportunities away from local construction workers and masons who could have benefitted from a few week’s paycheck. Even more twisted is one of the reasons people go overseas to do their “project” is because they believe the country doesn’t have the financial means for it. Missionaries think so much of the peoples’ poverty, yet candidly take jobs away from them.

What would be many times more beneficial is donating money directly to the community. This way they can put the money to use how they please and towards long-term things. After a mission trip group builds that classroom they’re gone. They don’t stay to train teachers or support them with a wage. It is much more beneficial to improve education, which simply building a classroom doesn’t do. The citizens know what their community needs, not a group of people from across the globe who are eager to share this experience to social media.

An amazing article written by Mariette Williams for ZORA details her personal experience with voluntourism as a volunteer and later as a group leader and why she’ll never go on a mission trip again. Williams says, “Mission trips are often well intended, but poverty is a complex political and economic problem that won’t be solved with a weeklong trip.” That right there, is exactly what I’ve been trying to say this whole time. There is nothing a mission trip can do to solve a country’s poverty, and especially not by borderline modern-day colonialism.

The most upsetting aspect of voluntourism is the exploitation of children. An article by the Huffington Post talks about Haitian parents who were told and paid to send their children to orphanages where they could receive education and health care. The parents sent their children to the orphanages, manipulated into thinking it would lead to better opportunities, but their children were exploited. Images of them were posted to social media soliciting for funds. When the children returned they said they were constantly hungry in the orphanage, made to do heavy labor, beaten by the “director,” and never went to school. Plus, many of the children were sick from drinking polluted water and malnutrition. It’s also important to address the evangelistic work of mission trips. We’ll use Haiti as an example. According to a 2018 religious demography report of Haiti, 55% of the population is Catholic, 29% Protestant, 15% Baptist, and there are other present denominations of Christianity. These people know Jesus and I’m sure they have the tools to explore Christianity if not.

In conclusion, I do not support mission trips like the ones I’ve discussed. I like to think there are other kinds that have long-term goals for the visiting area, but I believe a lot of people (clearly not everyone, don’t come for me) use mission trips to convince themselves they’re good Christians and living like Jesus did when they’re actually being self-serving and ignorant. If you truly wish to help, donate to humanitarian organizations. Here are some places you can do that: Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere (CARE), International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), World Food Program USA (WFP).

SUSTAINABLE FASHION BRANDS

I have a post from a while back about fast fashion– explaining what it is, its impact, the whole shabang. I listed a few popular retailers that fall under the wing of fast fashion, but wanted to save a separate blog post for their foil: sustainable brands. These brands work to create quality clothing pieces that will last and are working to make a difference. Unfortunately, no clothing is “good” for the environment– it all has some negative impact, but sustainable companies have a smaller negative impact. Key word: smaller. Below you can see sustainable brands I have or would shop at. There are obviously lots of other options, but these are my favorite style-wise. Let’s love our planet better.

Levi’s

You have no idea how happy I was to learn this company is sustainable. Levi 501s are a staple and I highly encourage every girl and gay to own a pair of these. BTdubs if you have thinner legs like I do, the 501 Skinny style fits like a regular 501 should. It takes over 2,000 gallons of water to make a single pair of jeans, but Levi’s removes water wherever it is possible. Considering this brand is known for their denim and has been for decades, what they’re doing makes a huge impact.

H&M Conscious

Every product from the H&M Conscious line has something about it that lessens its environmental impact. Plus, styles start at $10 which is great for people who struggle with big price tags. This line includes a large range of products with loungewear, intimates, jeans, tees, and nice dresses and tops.

Reformation

This brand is sooooo cute. They have trendy and simple pieces, tons of jean styles, and even wedding outfits like bridal dresses and bridesmaids dresses. As most sustainable brands, they’re really passionate about the topic and have a whole About page on it. This brand is dope and does a great job of being trendy and sustainable.

For Love & Lemons

This is another brand I’m absolutely obsessed with. For Love & Lemons’ clothes are trendy and feminine, but also unique. If I had to pick one store to shop at for the rest of my life, this would be it. It is a little pricier like Reformation, but their clothes will last you longer than a fast fashion brand, which is the whole point here! Talented, brilliant, incredible, amazing, show stopping, spectacular.

New Balance

In addition to the environment experiencing the impacts of fast fashion are the people who make the clothes in very poor conditions and for a low, unfair wage. New Balance seeks to ensure their employees are treated with respect and given a fair wage. They own footwear manufacturers in the UK and US, which is significant because companies will outsource laborers and underpay them. Side note: I’ve been loving the 990 style recently. It definitely had a frat boy moment circa 2015, but I think we need to reclaim it. Love a good chunky sneaker.

Rent the Runway

I’m very much on the wave that is renting clothes, especially formal dresses. Do you know how hard it is to rewear a formal dress? Answer: it’s very hard. Because you look poppin’ in a formal dress you’ll take lots of pictures, share them to social media, and you don’t want to rewear it for second cousin twice removed Tammy’s wedding the next week! And formal dresses are good at breaking the bank. Rent the Runway has super cute formal dresses, but also regular pieces like tops and bottoms. Plus, you can get an extra try-on size for free which is clutch.

Patagonia

My Patagonia fleece jacket and is a go-to in the winter because it does the best at keeping me warm. In addition to creating sustainable, quality products, Patagonia is involved in climate change activism. The brand has a bunch of awesome stories on their Activism page that show the work they’re doing to make a difference and help the earth.

Athleta

Don’t worry, I would never leave you athleisure girls hanging. Athleta claims 60% of its products are made with sustainable fibers and 4% made with water-saving techniques. The brand is also an advocate for feminism and according to their website, 3,212 and counting women have been empowered through P.A.C.E. and Fair Trade. P.A.C.E. stands for Personal Advancement & Career Enhancement, a program that works to empower the women who make their product. And their stuff is cute!

FAST FASHION EXPLAINED

What is Fast Fashion?

Fast fashion is a term used to describe cheap, trendy clothes that take ideas from celebrity culture or runways and turn them into garments in stores at rapid speed. Plus, it’s horrible for the environment. Horrible. However, things weren’t always like this. People didn’t used to constantly shop like we do now; it used to be an occasional event that happened as needed. Outgrew your winter coat? Time for a new one. Clothing isn’t made to last like it used to be. Then, about 20 years ago, the shopping culture we have now made it’s introduction.

Its Impact

One of the impacts of fast fashion is retailers using cheap, toxic textiles dyes. This is such a huge issue because fast fashion is one of the major polluting industries. Its distribution of crops, fibers, and garments contribute to environmental pollution as well as soil, air, and water pollution. The textile industry is the second greatest polluter of local freshwater in the entire world. Polyester, a material we all recognize from the tags in our clothes, is derived from fossil fuels. This contributes to global warming and can shed microfibers that can add to the increasing levels of plastic into our oceans when put into a wash. Cotton, another material we all know, requires loads of water and pesticides in developing countries.

Unsurprisingly, fast fashion is harmful to humans– the people who work to get these garments out so quickly. They work in dangerous environments and for low wages. Not only is it hurting the people who make the clothes, but also the farmers who may be working with toxic chemicals that can have long-lasting physical and mental effects. The water pollution affects ocean life, which is already facing a thousand other threats.

The Faces of Fast Fashion

Sadly, there are too many fast fashion brands to list, so here are some of the big names we all recognize: Victoria’s Secret, Urban Outfitters, Topshop, GUESS, Gap, Boohoo, Missguided, H&M, Zara, Adidas, ASOS, Shein, Nasty Gal, and many more.

What You can Do

I’ve very recently learned about fast fashion, and writing this post helped me fully understand its extensive impact on the planet. I was devastated to see so many stores I’ve shopped from on the list above, and while I understand I cannot singlehandedly end the plight that is fast fashion, there are steps I can take to help, and so can you.

Thrift! Shopping at thrift/second-hand stores is so fun to do with friends and it’s a great way to find cute, discounted clothes. As a college student myself, I’m always balling on a budget so I love going thrifting with my friends and a lot of my favorite pieces are from stores like Buffalo Exchange and Poshmark. Plus, if you’re going to buy animal product clothing, which is a whole other issue, thrifting is the only appropriate way to do it. It’s already been bought and sold, so this way you aren’t contributing to the killing of animals for clothing.

Buy better quality clothes. By doing this you don’t have to shop as much, and as a result you’re less supportive of fast fashion. Get a winter coat that will last longer than a single season and you won’t have to spend money on another one so soon. It’s a win-win situation!

Share clothes with friends. Sharing clothes with friends is so fun because it’s an intimate thing (I realize this sounds so weird, but to me it means you trust your friend enough to share something that’s your own with them and that’s senti). Plus, it’s like renting a new outfit! Speaking of renting, that’s something else you can do. Rent the Runway is an awesome company. I’ve used them before to rent a formal dress for an event and highly recommend. They have cute options and you won’t end up spending as much money in comparison to buying something.

In Conclusion

In conclusion, I am very new to the concept of fast fashion. I’m not claiming to be an expert on the topic and definitely not claiming to have avoided all fast fashion brands because I certainly have not- I have a post about my favorite trends from this month and mentioned a pair of shoes I just bought from Urban Outfitters so yeah… there’s proof. I will, however, be more mindful in the future and do my best to shop from brands that are not killing the earth. I love our planet and have made life choices in the past to support the environment, so this is just another one.

I hope this has taught you something about the dangers of fast fashion and the huge impact it has on the earth and us as humans. I learned a great deal more by researching for and writing this post.

I found a good amount of my information for this post from this site, https://goodonyou.eco/ which is a world-leading source of trusted brand ratings, articles and guides on ethical and sustainable fashion. It has a lot of useful information in addition to what I included in here and I recommend looking through their site to learn more about fast fashion and sustainability.

Take care of our earth!

M