This past week I was asked by a group of middle school students “what do you believe in”? Even though the question was light hearted and blameless, I think as a black male twenty-two year old constantly challenged by the power and privilege dynamics of this society, it is important to rigorously interrogate my own beliefs and make sure I know what I stand for and why. After all, the cliché is true, if you don’t stand for something you in fact, could fall for anything. So this is what I believe.
I believe in the power of love. I know that a generous and kind heart is more powerful than those who put individualism at the forefront. I believe that equality and equal access to opportunity is the only way freedom will be achievable.
I am a progressive, some call it a Democratic-Socialist. I know that the social safety net is fundamental to a fruitful society. It is my strong belief that when disadvantaged communities work full time, they should earn a living wage. I trust that we need a substantial and rigorous investment in education, and an extreme dedication to invest in early childhood. I believe quality and universal health care is crucial. I believe our civil liberties should be treasured. I think we should tax as much as we need to, if we want to pay for a great America.
Pragmatism is important, however, sometimes I just think we need some larger reform than what our current system allows for, and a pragmatist mindset could often hinder a more bold approach to reform.
I would also categorize myself as progressive/liberal and on some topics I could be a bit radical. (topics like marriage equality, racial politics, welfare reform, healthcare, and education. In these area think some of my beliefs would be in the far left area of the political spectrum, but usually everything I believe in is in the name of equality and equal opportunity).
I also identify myself as a black feminist, believing that there are always multiple modalities of oppression that impact the lives of women, the LGBTQ community, and people of color. I strongly believe that these multiple levels of oppression (sexism, homophobia, institutional racism, unequal access to education, and the cycle of poverty to name a few) need to be challenged and remedied.
I often find myself being anti-capitalist and agreeing with a lot of neo-marxist thinkers. However, I do think more socially bent forms of capitalism can work with enough regulation and safety net programs that protect the poor (I think this is done right in some parts of Europe, even though their financial crisis complicates that theory lol). I also think one of the major problems with our own social safety net is that while helping the poor, it is also set up to stigmatize them, and often creates a dichotomy between the working poor and what some categorize as the “undeserving poor.” As I’m sure you can tell by now, I think it’s a false dichotomy.
Government reform? Indeed. We should eliminate the filibuster, non partisan or bipartisan panels should draw congressional districts. We should shorten out campaign seasons. We should limit contributions from corporations and wealthy individuals. We should make lobbying by former members of congress a felony. And finaly I believe that all states should be required to offer earlier and longer voting periods and the electoral college should be eliminated.
This is what I believe now, in my black skin, in my black community, in a non-black world, I am open to change, my politics could be fluid, but as a now, I will fight for my beliefs until a change becomes realized.