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Why I'm Feeling the Bern

March 3, 2016

About a week or so ago, I wrote an opinion piece about Hillary Clinton's less than stellar legacy fighting for black women's rights, particularly when it comes to black women living with HIV. The article was mostly well received. However, I received several comments that all included a similar refrain: "Hillary is better than the competition."

Is she really?

You will not hear me say I'm picking Donald Trump or Ted Cruz over Clinton. Those rabble-rousers would be a destructive force in this nation -- particularly Cruz. But, what many of these commenters seem to forget is -- Clinton hasn't won the nomination, and we have a Democratic alternative -- Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

Yeah, Sanders is still around. And he can trump Clinton, it's happened before. Despite all the inaccurate delegate counting, Clinton has 609 pledged delegates, Sanders has 412. Most news outlets report that Clinton has an aggressive lead over Sanders because they include superdelegates, a group of party officials that are put in place to ensure candidates like Clinton don't have to run "against grassroots activists" like Sanders. Superdelegates are unpredictable, as they don't always follow the vote of the people and can change their pledge before the Democratic convention in July. In 2008, Clinton had a three-to-one superdelegate advantage over then Illinois Senator Barack Obama. Clinton conceded in June. So, not only is Sanders still a viable option but he's my option, for the following reasons.

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  1. I'm a millennial. Before you roll your eyes, listen. I'm not one of these millennials who don't eat cereal because it's too much work to make. I don't have a phone filled with selfies -- in fact, most of the photos in my phone are of books I want to read, images of food I'd like to cook, and pics of my nieces and nephews.

    I'm a hardworking, 29-year-old woman with a master's degree in journalism from one of the top journalism schools in the world, and I live paycheck to paycheck. I need a national leader who has real plans to address the economic disadvantages people my age face.

    If not for the generosity of my mother, I'd possibly be homeless because I live in New York City -- where you have to make 40 times the rent to qualify for an apartment. The average rent in Brooklyn, where I live, is $2,711.87. As a millennial, the American dream of buying a home is further and further out of my grasp. According to a study from online real estate database, Zillow, first-time homeowners are older (average age is 33) when compared to people buying homes in the '70s and '80s (mean age was 30). The study found Americans were renting for an average of six years before buying their first home, compared to 2.6 years in 1970. Because millennials are more likely to live in urban centers, when they do buy homes it's for exponentially higher cost. Despite the higher home prices, the median income is about the same when adjusted for inflation.

    As a millennial, you often hear the refrain from boomers that, "millennials are lazy." I am not lazy. Baby boomers just have a skewed view of reality. I've been to many journalism career counseling lectures, where "seasoned" journalists who also went to Columbia's Journalism School talk about having to pay their $2,000 tuition by working a summer job. When I went to J-school, I paid $50,000 -- well actually Citibank paid that amount, my mother helped me secure that loan. I've also heard these same "seasoned" journalists that recruit cub reporters, jokingly talk about how unqualified they were for their first gigs, one even saying, "If I were applying for my first job now, I wouldn't hire myself."

    Millennials are poorer than their predecessors, more educated and more likely to be underemployed, and facing a bleak future.
  2. I'm a POC. It's clear, I'm not here for Clinton's shenanigans. Whether you agree with the facts I have laid out, is up to you. But as a black woman, I want a leader that not only talks about issues of racial inequality but is willing to lead by actions. But Clinton isn't even talking thoughtfully about this issue. Whether you look at her "All Lives Matter" misstep, her "if we're honest ... the sight of a young black man in a hoodie still evokes a twinge of fear" comment or her '90s "super predator" comment, her words leave much to be desired. And her recent actions of being dismissive to young black women in Minnesota and South Carolina isn't currying my favor.

    The United States is entrenched in a severe racial divide that negatively affects black and Latino people from health, social and economic standpoints. Black and Latino people face higher incarceration rates, higher rates of unemployment, and more likely to experience inferior quality health care. A 2014 study on the impact of criminal records on employment outcomes found white men with a criminal record had more positive responses than black men with no criminal record.

    Even with the Affordable Care Act, black people lag behind in accessing healthcare -- because many live in states that refuse to expand Medicaid in accordance with the federal law. Because of limitations in access to care for undocumented immigrants, the number of uninsured Latinos remain high. Meanwhile black women have a 40% higher death rate from breast cancer than white women; Latino women are 40% more likely to die from cervical cancer than white women. Latino children are 60% more likely to attempt suicide as a high schooler than white teens; black children are 73% more likely to be obese than white children. Black people are nine times more likely and Latino people are 2.5 times to be diagnosed with HIV than white people.
  3. I don't just want equality; I want equity. Too often in this country, we treat the two as if they are one in the same, but that is far from the truth. Equality means we put everyone on the same level; equity means properly distributing resources according to everyone's need.


    Equality/Equity cartoon


    A perfect example of equity/equality is in education. I think you'll be hard pressed to find anyone who thinks education (at least primary and secondary education) isn't a fundamental right. But the education that children of color, like my nieces and nephews, receive is inferior to their white counterparts.

    The Office of Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education found several racial disparities in the quality of education and discipline children of color receive. The OCR found black children accounted for 48% of preschool suspensions. PRESCHOOL! This trend of kicking black children out of the classroom continues -- black children are suspended or expelled from school three times the rate of white students. Black girls are suspended at a higher rate than any other race. Over a quarter of all students referred to law enforcement and nearly a third of all students arrested due to a school-related incident are black children, according to the OCR.

    A 2014 report from the OCR found that, among high schools that had the highest percentage of black and Latino students, one in four did not offer Algebra II -- and one in three did not offer chemistry at all. Meanwhile, less than one in two American Indians and Native Alaskans in high school had a complete array of math and science classes available to them, according to the report.

It's easy to brush off people who feel the Bern as "idealistic fools" following a "socialist grandpa." But at what point did we, as a society, say "good enough" is good enough. Why did we start shaming people who said, "good enough isn't good enough for me"? Sanders won't fix everything; he probably won't fix most things (with all 435 seats in the House and 34 Senate seats up for reelection, you never know), but what he will do is bring the interests of the disadvantaged to the table. Clinton hasn't proven to me that she can or will do that. The fact that she's a better option than Trump is not an option at this point.

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This article was provided by TheBody.com.


 

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Althea Fung

Althea Fung

Althea wants to live in a world where adequate health care and health education is accessible to everyone.

As a journalist, she's written on health and health care policy for The Richmond Times-Dispatch in Virginia, The National Journal in D.C., The Jersey Journal in New Jersey and a variety of health care organizations across the country. Althea is currently the community editor for TheBody.com, where she helps coordinate the blog contributions and reports on HIV-related news and events.

When she's not writing and editing, Althea is trying to turn her daydreams into the next blockbuster movie by osmosis.

Althea's hobbies include obsessively re-reading books by Octavia Butler, napping, pretending to be a doctor and watching police procedural dramas. Her favorite doctors are House M.D., Doc Martin and the subway skin savior Dr. Zizmor.

Email your questions, concerns and comments to afung@thebody.com. To find out what Althea's up to, follow her on Twitter, stalk her on Facebook and like her photos on Instagram. For random musings and her thoughts on health care, visit her website, altheafung.com.


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