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#socioeconomic inequality
Ijeoma Oluo, writer/editor
XOXO Festival (2018)

I’m not going to [tell you] that money doesn’t buy happiness. Because money gets you halfway there. And it’s a half that you can’t really replace with anything else.

Like, if you don’t have money to go to the doctor, there’s no life experience that’s gonna really bring you happiness. When you can’t get your basic needs met.

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The human race honestly baffles me.

It’s appalling the way this country and our system was established. White people barging in, thinking they’re better than everyone, committing mass genocide, and creating capitalism. The American education system is crap, the American justice system is crap, the American economic system is crap. And equality? Well, that’s a pipe dream. 

I wish I could be an optimist. I wish I had the brainpower to believe that one day things will change. I also wish I could be an activist, but unfortunately, activism and pessimism don’t exactly coincide. I just don’t believe any amount of activism is going to change the way our government runs things. 

It amazes me that we have had this system for hundreds of years - this system that isn’t working - and we haven’t done a damn thing about it. The whole basis of our lives is to grow up, further our educations, get married, have children, and work until we die. In a perfect world, our parents’ jobs would pay enough to get us through college so that we could make enough of a living to feed our eventual families and put our own kids through college. Our world obviously isn’t perfect. In our world, if you need money, you need a job. If you need a job, you need experience or an education. To get an education, however, you need money. Who in their right mind thought that would be a good way to do things? 

Nothing about this country is equal. We pride ourselves on how “far we’ve come” but it feels like we’re only going backwards. How could we possibly have distanced ourselves from practically destroying the Native Americans and taking over their land when today we are still discriminatory against people who are “different”? People have always been so focused on materialistic objects that the real matters don’t even seem to be considered. Oh, transgendered or intersexed people feel unequal because there isn’t ever a box for them to check when a questionnaire (or the goddamn census) asks if they are male or female? That’s irrelevant because the new iPhone comes out tomorrow. Or, women want equal pay? Hmm, no can do, but we just revolutionized the way you can take a shit! It’s that stupid.

I could rant for hours about why I feel this country is backpedaling but this is giving me a headache. We need a new system. That’s my entire point.

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I’m currently taking a sociology course on Latin America. I chose it not because I had any genuine interest in it but because being Colombian, I thought it’d be an easy A. As the days have passed, I’ve grown more interested in the history that Latin America embodies including mestizaje, colonization, revolutions, and everything else that makes it what it is today. One thing that really caught my attention is the level of inequality that exists in many of these countries. There is basically no such thing as a middle class or at least not a middle class in the way that we know it. The gaps are so notorious where the rich could basically have whatever they want and the poor are out in the streets as beggars in numbers that range in the hundred thousands. There are these two economic theories called Dependency and Neoliberalism. They’re both pretty similar, one at a worldwide level and the other is within a given country. To put it in my simple terms, it’s the powerful entities taking advantage of the powerless and then they throw in a million lovely words to make it sound like they actually give a shit about improving the lives of the disadvantaged. Anyway, what really caught my attention is how all this is affecting the upbringing of those who live there. One of my cousins who is very wealthy and lives in the capital in Colombia was telling me how he only hangs out with wealthy kids and how they all party together and go to events together and don’t associate with anyone who’s “beneath them”. What does that even mean???! He was asking me questions like “how do wealthy kids in your school dress” and almost every conversation we had was materialistic in one way or another. He would also make little remarks on how he disliked Asians and Blacks. I’m not saying everyone is like that and that those type of people don’t exist in the US as well but I believe that those who live here are wayyyy more humble in comparison. I have friends and acquaintances who could be placed all over the financial spectrum and we all get along just fine. It’s as if they measure a person’s worth literally by how much money they have which I found to be a very backwards way of reasoning. Then I made correlations with what I had learned in class and realized how fortunate I am to live in a country where we can all be equal regardless of how much money we have or what we look like… glad to be taking this course because it has opened my mind to how different things are in other places.

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