Thursday, November 11, 2010

Net Neutrality: 50th Media Justice Post

Cross posted from my Media Justice Column

Since April I’ve wanted to write this article. While on a panel at the CLPP Conference on Media Radicals, there was an interesting conversation about Net Neutrality. During that time I realized three things about this topic 1. I did not know anything about it or why I should, 2. There were few young people involved in the education and movement around Net Neutrality and 3. The language of the conversation was not as accessible as I thought it could be for different communities such as youth, people whose first language is not English, older adults, and people without regular access to the Internet.

With those three things in mind I took some time out to investigate what goes into this topic of Net Neutrality, why there was a disconnect, and what we at Amplify can do to help spread the word. The Detroit Digital Justice Coalition’s zine really helped me and I encourage you all to read them as well as they had a great glossary of technology terms and tips for all sorts of technology questions! I’d like to think this article could be an accessible piece of information that can reach different people, but I also recognize that I write a lot and this post is no different. My hope is that this may lead to some more activism by many of us who write and read at Amplify because we care about the work we do and the information we can access.

I also want to put a disclaimer on this 50th post for this column (!): There’s a huge learning curve here for me, and part of that learning curve is that we are talking about airwaves and I don’t understand completely how an airwave, something we can’t see or touch, can be regulated and restricted. But I know this happens and hopefully some of you readers can also help build on this conversation and teach me something and we can build new knowledge together! Oh, and if you didn’t notice by now, or didn’t guess from the title of this column, I support Net Neutrality!

What Is It

Net Neutrality is basically a free and open Internet and views communication as a human right. It is anti-censorship and pro-equality for all Internet and websites. It’s about choice. A Columbia Law Professor named Tim Wu created the term. As many of you know, our First Amendment right is freedom of speech and using and accessing the Internet falls under that Amendment. Having an open Internet allows anyone from any computer (except for certain areas such as public schools and libraries) to access any information they choose to or to provide and share information of their choice (think blogs). Here’s a video created by theSave The Internet campaign:

Why Is This An Issue

A bit of history: In short, Comcast did some ish that led to the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) sanctioning them in 2008 because Comcast had unfairly slowed traffic to the website BitTorrent, a file-sharing website. Reporter Cecilia Kang at the Washington Post

“The FCC's predicament stems from a 2008 sanction against Comcast for violating the agency's open Internet guidelines, which were meant to force broadband providers to treat all network traffic equally, so as not to put any Web site at a disadvantage. In a 3 to 2 vote, the FCC found that Comcast had improperly slowed traffic to the BitTorrent file-sharing site and urged the company to halt the practice. It did not impose a fine. Comcast appealed the FCC sanction, saying that the agency's order was outside the scope of its authority. The court agreed on Tuesday, saying the agency relied on laws that give it some jurisdiction over broadband services but not enough to make the action against Comcast permissible.”
President Obama is interested in making high-speed Internet (not just dial-up) available nationwide, so when the US Court of Appeals in DC ruled in favor of Comcast in April of this year, many activists, who had already started to make moves on this topic, put this issue as a top priority for communities and Congress.

New York Times reporter Edward Wyatt
states that Net Neutrality is when “no form of content is favored over another. In its [Net Neutrality’s] place, consumers could soon see a new tiered system, which like cable television, imposes higher costs for premium levels of service.

Why You Need To Care

If we don’t care about Net Neutrality we don’t value producing and accessing knowledge. Net Neutrality, in many ways can be seen an issue of the “elite” or of the
“privileged” and I do not argue against this. It is a privilege to have access to a computer, a space where you can use it, to have electricity, and the ability to care for the equipment, as well as use the equipment correctly.

At the same time we can use our privilege to ensure that this is a privilege that can one day expand to all people, or that can one day be available to help anyone who needs it around the world. Stephanie C. Webster wrote in her article
“After committing to ‘Net Neutrality’, Rep. Waxman pushes bill to kill it” that Net Neutrality proponents argue “that bloggers or whistle-blowers publishing content the network providers object to could simply be deprioritized, leaving their material in a gray zone devoid of traffic, which many Internet users cannot easily access.” When I read this article I immediately thought about howWikileaks has been used. My homegirl Barbara shared with me “wiki leaks has been an invaluable resource for journalists - it's a place where whistleblowers can put information or documents that would usually be too sensitive for people to give to journalists ‘on the record’.” Other communal sharing spaces, like blogs, Wikipedia, and other such spaces are also going to be limited. Be critical in consuming what this Verizon ad tells you! This is when y/our media literacy skills become invaluable!

What Are Some Challenges

There are some folks who argue that Net Neutrality is not the main issue for them and their communities. For folks who can’t even access the Internet, their main concern is simply getting the Internet in the first place! This is for sure a class issue. This is an area that is a challenge for me, because I realize that many working class and working poor people, of which I am, don’t have access to Net Neutrality even now, or even access to the Internet. So why push Net Neutrality agendas forward if this is the community we are from?

I think of myself and the community I am a part of. I’ve got no problem saying I’m working class, that there are times when I (still) find myself living below the poverty line (yes even college professors don’t make a lot of money) to get the work I’m dedicated to do (there is not lots of money in sexuality education as many of you already know). However, as someone who has access to the Internet, I have been able to create my own website, create a blog and share my radical opinions on sex, race, gender, disability, and class which has helped me apply for paying jobs like writing this column on Amplify. An open Internet has really helped me go from working poor to working class, and I know I’m not the only one.

Take for example two sites I have contributed to in the past:
Vivir Latino andRacialicious. Many writers have discussed Racialicious in their posts, and currently the staff there is using the Internet to raise funds for future projects (they call it the $2 Challenge). At Vivir Latino we are currently doing this as well to move to a more secure and working server. Doing this fundraising on the Internet allows the content of these two sites to continue. My homegirls and activists Cripchick and Mia Mingus are moving to California to create “a living record of two queer disabled korean american radical women of color being intentional, vulnerable, fierce and loving with each other” and have used the Internet for similar purposes. The book sale to help cover costs of the move, open (love) letters to one another, and support of their radical and revolutionary love has been possible because of Net Neutrality.

Net Neutrality is the one issue many communities, often on opposite sides of several debates, agree on. Supporters of Net Neutrality include people from various religious organizations, politicians of every political party, youth organizers, non-profit organizations, media outlets and sex workers.

There are also people who are against having the Internet regulated in a particular way as we regulate telephone lines. One of the reasons they are against this, which many Net Neutrality proponents are for, is that if we treat the Internet similarly to telephone “airwaves” new rules apply. Some of these new rules are maintaining an open Internet. I’ve already stated my bias in support of Net Neutrality; I mean this column is called “Media Justice” for a reason. I’m also totally in support of each of you reading what all sides have to say about their positions before making a final decision if you are still on the fence. One way to continue investigating this topic is by understanding the
Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2009 (H.R. 3458) and its connection to the Communications Act. Also check out wikipedia’s entry on Net Neutrality which has various positions presented.

What Could Happen When spaces are privatized (hospitals, the postal service, their services are limited to those people that can access them and they are monitored. The same thing will happen with the Internet. Here are a few things that could happen if we no longer have an open Internet:
  • You will not be able to access some or any pages that you often visit, like Amplify.
  • Users will have to pay for accessing some online information.
  • Like cable channels, users will only be able to access from SELECT sites and online resources their provider approves.
  • Paying online bills or sending money/remittance via the Internet will be limited
  • Long distance and international telephone calls using phone cards may be impacted if they use the Internet to use the service. (Skype would be affected too)
What YOU Can Do NOW

There are several organizations you can join and support that are working towards ensuring Net Neutrality for everyone. Check out some of these spaces doing amazing work, including working with migrant populations, communities of Color, older adults, and Spanish-speaking communities.

Free Press Latinos For Internet Freedom Network Neutrality FAQ with Tim Wu NNSquad (Network Neutrality Squad) Open Internet Coalition The Internet The Center For Media Justice

Consider attending the
Allied Media Conference and meet other media makers, media radicals, and folks creating and challenging media representations! And. as the folks at write: Urge your member of Congress to support this important piece of legislation today!

Make your own media like these local youth activists did and share it with us!

Many thanks to
Misty Perez Trudeson who facilitated the Media Radicals discussion and shared several resources with me to write this piece! Thanks to Cripchick who shared the Detroit Digital Justice Coalition zine’s with me earlier this year!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Puerto Rican Youth In NYC: Outlook Not So Good

Cross posted from my RH Reality Check blog

It’s been a week since the Community Service Society of New York released their report, a policy brief titled New York City’s Future Looks Latino: Latino Youth In New York City. Examined in the report are the work, education, and poverty rates of Latino youth in NYC, a population with which I work almost exclusively on a daily basis. This is not so much commentary on the research, I will do that, but I also want to have us rethink the research we are doing on our own communities and in those communities of which we are not a part, specifically Puerto Rican and Dominican populations.

One of my many issues with (this) research is that the researchers view “Latinos” as a racial group instead of using this term as an ethnic identifier. As a result, Latinos like myself who racially identify as Black are excluded. Why must my ethnicity trump my racial classification and identity? On a regular basis I’m treated more like a woman of Color, a Black woman (or racially ambiguous to some) than I am as a Latina. This becomes a problem when “Latinos” are compared as a group to racially “Black” people living in NYC. We are a part of both groups, and our lived realities and complex identities are oversimplified which eliminates any opportunity to have a fully complete understanding of what is going on within our communities.

And I get it, they, the Community Service Society of New York, didn’t collect the data themselves, they took what was available via the US Census. Yet, with the data demonstrating that Dominicans and Puerto Ricans are the largest ethnic subgroup in NYC, and we are also people from the Caribbean (where the triangle slave trade hit up on a regular basis) how is it that racial classification is nowhere to be found in this document?

I also want to point out that the document identifies “youth” as people ages 16-24, so when they ask about attending school, and find that Puerto Rican youth are not attending school as often compared to other ethnic Latinos, they examine completing high school or less, graduating high school and/or obtaining higher education. When reporting that Puerto Rican males have the least amount of “formal” education with regards to school enrollment, there is no examination of juvenile detention facilities (which in NYC can hold a youth until they are 21 years old). There is also no discussion of the work that many scholars have discussed, the fact that for many youth of Color (NYC) public schools can be direct “pipelines to prison.” (I just did a quick online search and this was one the first links I found, there’s TONS more research and data if this is new to you).

Another aspect that has yet to really be examined in such research is a look at how Puerto Rican identity is seen as a commodity. Yes, when I say commodity, I mean something that is bought and sold. How are Puerto Rican youth expected to purchase their ethnic identity by large and small corporations, even some non-profits? One of the first times I read about this idea was in Arlene M. Davila’s book Sponsored Identities: Cultural Politics In Puerto Rico. Davila begins the introductory portion of her book, “Making And Marketing National Identities,” with a discussion of how culture is being sold to Puerto Ricans, and many times by us and what impact this has on us collectively. She uses the following Fanon quote, which I greatly appreciate, to begin her first chapter. She cites from his work On National Culture the following:

It is not enough to try to get back to the people in that past out of which they have already emerged; rather we must join them in that fluctuating movement which they are just giving a shape to, and which, as soon as it has started, will be the signal for everything to be called into question.”

One sentence from this Fanon piece that Davila doesn’t quote, but that I find fitting is: “It is the colonialists that become the defenders of the native style.”

This ties into ideas of co-opting and commodification of an identity, an art, a “native style” that may become fads. Music and performers are good examples of what is being presented here.

Frances Negrón-Montener’s text Boricua Pop! Puerto Ricans And The Latinization of American Culture explores this connection and commodification. She builds her argument and discussion on the idea of shame. Negrón-Montener writes “modern Puerto Rican ethno-national identity has been constituted in shame as a result of a transnational history of colonial domination in the Caribbean and the contradictory ways boricuashave negotiated with a metropolis at once contemptuous and ostensibly benevolent” (italics in original). Mmmhmmm

As my home girl Maegan “La Mamita Mala” Ortiz points out when she covered this story:

“While many hate to admit it, clinging to colonial citizenship, the Puerto Rican experience, that of my parents, for example, is an immigrant experience, and that should draw all Latinos to work more closely together understanding that we are all being targeted by the state and that the only way we will grow in power as we grow in numbers is together.”

Finally, there is no discussion of sexuality or reproductive health and their connection to work, education and poverty. How could this report have been completed without such a discussion, or even mention? Here at RH Reality Check, we know how access to reproductive health, solid and accurate information about sexuality and sexual health from a culturally affirming space can be an important part of an a young person’s life. We also know this information can save their lives.

Questions/Suggestions I offer not just for this research, but for future research as well. I see this as a sort of wish list/let’s get it together!:

1. What if we view Puerto Rican and Dominican youth as Caribbean? What findings will we discover that may be different? How will putting these two groups in the same space as Jamaicans, Bajan, and other Caribe people shift our understanding and grouping of them?

2. What would happen if we examine how Puerto Rican and Dominican youth may also be migrating back to the Caribbean and not staying in NYC? What’s it mean that we assume people want to stay in the US, when for many, assimilation is NOT what they desire and thus leave the US?

3. Why do we CONTINUE to compare ourselves to other racial groups when we don’t even recognize the racial classification and differences within our community? Have we considered what these approaches do to the youth and people who identify as both/all/more than what we can imagine/work with? And this is beyond identifying as racially Black as Latinos can identify as any racial group!

4. Have we considered what YOUTH LED research may discover and how that may teach US, researchers/professors/activists/scholars/etc., how to rethink how we conduct research, collect, and examine data?

5. How can we ensure that this data does not continue to perpetuate Oscar Lewis’ “culture of poverty” that many Puerto Ricans continue to challenge? (I’m not even linking to that nonsense because the fact that I even had to mention it makes me ill and tired.)

6. Why is there no discussion of “shame” or how our society shames its youth, especially youth of Color? When will we, as adults/researchers/people “in power” examine and recognize the role we play in shaming our youth and include that in the discussion?

7. In what ways can we make sure that “being Puerto Rican” does not become a risk factor when research like this is conducted and similar findings discovered?

8. When will more work and research that includes the “psychology of liberation” be used to explore the experiences and national identities of Puerto Ricans, especially youth like that done by Nelson Varas-Díaz and Irma Serrano-García?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

From My Formspring

I've slacked on answering some Formspring questions (you can ask me here) and I got mad when Formspring deleted or got rid of my answers from earlier this year that I honestly thought were Ah-mazing! But, here are some that I really appreciated being asked.

Q.How can you separate sex from emotional attachment? (in other words, how can I sleep with someone without getting attached?) Is it possible?

A. some people can't. some can. i think if you are honest w/what you want and don't want it may be easier. i also think if you are honest w/yourself as to what you are emotionally ready for (i.e. loving yourself, enjoying your own company, etc.) it may be easier. so what if you get emotionally attached? it may not last forever, nothing ever does, so why not give yourself that bit of joy and enjoy it for as long as it's around b/c when its gone who knows when it will come back if it ever will? i say be shameless and unembarrassed w/your emotions. own them.

Q.Can you recommend an age-appropriate sex education video for a 12-year old (visual learner)?

A.i can but it depends on what exactly you want the 12yo to learn/understand. so for example a convo on puberty or a convo on menstruation or nocturnal emission or intercourse or sexual orientation will be different.

i think a good place to start for general overview of puberty and body changes and adolescents is (they also do HIV but are more on the science tip than the sociology tip). they do require a registration and a fee, but they also offer a 2 week trial period. there are videos and quizzes for youth to interact with and I used it often when I taught middle school.

then for a more sociology/pop culture discussion/presentation I'd suggest (i think or .org) they have all their videos online and they are written by youth and then the youth are partnered w/world leading directors to make their film. I like the films "from an objective point of view" re: abstinence and "it all falls down" regarding decision making and dating. they have lots of films representing various youth of different identities.

if you have something specific in mind send me another question and i can tell you what i know of. hope this is helpful!