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Stakes is high ... a call to action

This madness is not fiction

by Stacy Hae Lim Lee
Los Angeles, California

Stacy Hae Lim Lee is the UCLA Campus Organizing Director for UCSA

You're standing in the financial aid lines in Murphy, minding your own business when some obnoxious person shoves a flyer in your face and asks you to sign a postcard. You think to yourself, "Oh no, not another political radical bombarding me with propaganda..." So you take the flyer but pretend you are too consumed in the business of waiting in the financial aid lines to sign the card, hoping she will go away. Your diversionary tactics finally work and she moves on to the next person. Since you have nothing better to do and there are 73 people ahead of you in line, you figure that you might as well read the flyer.

As you quickly zoom down the sheet, your eye catches something. "Clinton is cutting CalGrants (State Student Incentive Grants-SSIG)! I have one of those -- I'll have to work extra hours to make up for that if they take it away from me. Oh no, like I don't have enough to worry about." Three hours later, you finally reach the front of the line, only to find out that you forgot your i.d. card and will have to come back tomorrow. What a day.

A few weeks later, you're at home and you remember that today is the "orientation" for the Raza Youth Conference. You had heard about the cool stuff they do and were interested in helping this year. Excited, you put on your favorite sweater and jeans and stroll down to campus. When you get to the room, there's a sign on the door "Meeting Cancelled." When you ask the people standing outside why the meeting was cancelled, they tell you that the court case against Proposition 209 lost and RYC no longer is eligible for funding or room access because of it. Disappointed and confused you ponder, "I thought they were exaggerating when all those people were marching through the streets against 209 and registering voters...." Then as if they could read your thoughts, the RYC people ask you if you had voted or gone on a precinct walk.

Flustered because you don't want to answer the question, you pretend you didn't hear them and quickly make your way down the stairs. "Vote? My vote wouldn't have made the difference anyway." When you get home, there's a federal vehicle in front of your building. You see a tall blond officer in official type gear approach your neighbor, a nice Vietnamese student. He says to here, "Miss you better come with me; according to the new federal financial aid guidelines, you are subject to deportation after receiving financial aid for one year." English is her second language so she is frightened and confused, not understanding the officer's quick speech. You go and try to help her, but he quickly brushes you out of his way, grabs your neighbor by the arm and pushes her into the federal car.

This madness is not fiction. These scenarios all reflect legislative changes that have been proposed or have occurred over the past year. Students of color are being particularly hard hit by local, state and federal attacks on financial aid, welfare, immigrant rights (there are over 15,000 immigrants in the UC system) and education funding. As the 20th century closes, 18-25 year olds are the highest age group to enter prison, not schools. These assaults on youth, particularly young people of color-from the three- strikes prison sentencing legislation, to cuts in financial aid and Proposition 209-continue because of our powerlessness and continued inaction. The politicians know that young people don't vote, and what's more dangerous, they think we don't care.

These days, the stakes are too high for young people to brush off "getting involved," or at the very least, voting. So next time someone approaches you with a postcard to sign or fact sheet to read, think twice before walking away.

The above article was originally printed in the UCSA Update and is published here with permission of the University of California Student Association.

Published in In Motion Magazine March 8, 1997.

  • California Civil Wrongs Initiative
    (including the text of the California Civil Rights Initiative)
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  • The Men Behind the Madness
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    Published in In Motion Magazine August 22, 1996