Guest Voices

The Right to Live: Homelessness and the Privilege of Existence in the United States

Liz Stevens is a Senior here at Pacific University. She’s an Anthropology and Politics & Government double major, and plans to go on to work in public policy and social justice fields after she finishes her formal education. She’s a non-traditional student who has moved a lot, loves books, Netflix, and video games, and misses having a real kitchen to bake in.


The question of the right to live, to exist as a valued person in this world, usually only brings one issue to mind in this country—that of abortion. But all issues of bodily autonomy, reproductive rights, and fetal rights aside, there is another group that we repeatedly deny the very right to exist: the homeless.

Homelessness is an ongoing issue in this country, one that dates back to colonial days. While most individuals might identify homelessness as a social problem, few would have any idea of how to address it other than ‘make those people get jobs.’ (more…)

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We are the Tools for Change

The guest writer of this piece is Elsa Hollyer. She grew up in Vermont, and is a junior transfer student from a college in Southern California. She’s majoring in Music Therapy, and minoring in Peace and Social Justice. When she graduates she intends to apply my passion for Social Justice work into the field of Music Therapy


“All…are therefore involved in this oppressive system, and none of us can control whether we participate, only how…” – ­Allan Johnson

It is not difficult to see all the problems we face on a global, national, or local level in society, if you know what you’re looking for. It is pretty easy to learn about the problems, but it is much harder to actively be part of the solution. As Johnson articulates above, you are either complying with oppressive forces, or you are working to undo them; there is no such thing as neutrality.

As a white woman, it is simply not enough to understand racism and the structures that maintain racism; I have to do more. Knowing about racism is half the battle. There is always more to be done and there is more than one right way to work against oppressive structures. However, the actions we take should be guided by an understanding of the problem we’re combatting and the actual needs of the individuals who are marginalizing, as blind  action can actually be incredibly harmful. A recent article entitled  “Accomplices Not Allies,” describes  some of these individuals as “Floaters.” Floaters are self-proclaimed allies who do not take responsibility for their actions, even when they are detrimental to a social justice cause, and put others in danger. Despite good intentions, these individuals are not great allies. As Dr. Grant says in Jurassic Park, “Some of the worst things imaginable have been done with the best intentions.” (more…)

Building a Home in a Landscape for Change

Olivia Barrows is a first year student at Pacific University planning to major in International Studies with minors in French and Gender & Sexuality Studies. Barrows came to Pacific from Colorado because she wanted a small school with a positive social outlook, and Barrows says she has yet to be disappointed with that decision.


 

I came to Pacific from Grand Junction, Colorado. I woke up to the classic Colorado Mountains and sunny skies every morning, but the social landscape waiting for me outside was a far cry from the liberal living space offered up by Boulder and Denver. Instead, I come from a guns blazing, diesel chugging, Planned Parenthood rejecting town. I spent my high school years watching fellow male yearbook editors be recognized for their efforts while I didn’t even get a handshake at the end of the year from the principal.  As a result, I entered college unsure of my worth to the world.

So when I finally found a group of people who accepted me and were as passionate about creating social change as I am, it was one of the most heartwarming moments of my life. This happened at the Social Justice retreat. We were pairs, engaging in dialogue about how we fit in with various social justice movements. One of the questions we were tasked with discussing was “why are you involved in social justice?” I answered by verbalizing my commitment to creating a better world for my brothers and for the women who will follow me. There was a point in the discussion when my partner looked at me and said, “I’m so glad to hear you say that. I feel the same way.” (more…)

Preserving the Old in the Smallest of Ways

Our guest writer Sophia Backus is a first year student at Pacific University who plans to double major in Creative Writing and Literature with a minor in Editing & Publishing. Originally from Wisconsin, she has lived in Salem for the past three years before deciding to come to Forest Grove for school.

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Ten more minutes, I think to myself after glancing once again at the clock. This is what you get for coming to the doctor’s office early on a busy day. There’s hardly any seats and there’s a delay because everyone’s here to get routine procedures done. Despite the mass of people, I don’t have any neighbors. To my right is a table and to my left is an empty chair, a true score. I can use both armrests and spread out after being confined in the car on the drive here. Then, disaster. A new person enters the room. I watch apprehensively as he scans the room and starts to make his way over to the open seat in the room. Half a second before he sits down, I murmur a quick “Oh, I’m sorry,” gather my purse, relinquish the left armrest, and huddle to the right side of my chair. After the cursory smile and nod, he spreads out over the relinquished space, by claiming the armrest and by spreading his legs an inch or so past the armrest of his chair, and pulls out his phone. While this relegates me to three quarters of my chair, he is , the image of contentment.

A flash of rebellion crosses my consciousness, but I squash it down. I did the right thing. That space had to be shared. It would’ve been rude not to move, to keep the armrest within my personal space and not give him room to sit. Though, if I was honest, he wasn’t so much sitting as he was lounging–taking up way more space than necessary. Looking down at my own crossed knees, I frown. I now have no room, I’m confined even more than when I’m driving, and I still have eight minutes before my name will be called. So I pull out my phone and begin to skim blindly through it as my mind only focuses on the tiny space I am now forced to inhabit. (more…)