Unpacking the White Privilege “Sack” in Appalachia – #1

(Based on White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy McIntosh)

Unpacking the Sack in Appalachia


1. I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.

People in Appalachia can usually ‘arrange’ to be in the company of people of their own race (white) most of the time simply because of demographics – my county is 94.4% white.  However, the ‘arranging’ part to meet up with the other 94.4% can get a little tricky.

Mass transit in Appalachia is practically nonexistent outside of urban areas, therefore any contact with other people (other than family) is dependent upon having a vehicle. Buying a vehicle costs money of course, and, as many people have little to no money (garment factory and other jobs that supported this area have dwindled away to almost nothing) and often have no credit to speak of, they turn to various used car dealers in the area whose sole business is to finance cheap vehicles at high interest rates (as high as 25%). Often these cars are totaled vehicles bought at auction, then fixed up so they will at least run. People buy the cars at these usurious interest rates (the overall interest rate is generally ignored or misunderstood by the purchaser – they just know they need a car and they look at the monthly payment only).

Not a Local Dealer!

The cars run for 6 months to a year then they break down (often stranding the person[s]). The people go back the same used car dealer, who either sells them another car (generally before the other one is paid off – the difference is added to the loan) or repairs the car and adds the repair bill onto the total debt.

So, they get deeper into debt with the ‘car man’ with little to no hope of getting out. If they miss a payment, the repo man comes (or worse) and then that’s it – no transportation. Why don’t they do something different? No options.

Therefore, if people happen to have a running car then they can ‘arrange’ to have social contact with others, generally in church, or in the waiting room at the County Health Department for medical care, struggling through never ending legal issues at the county courthouse (family members are often be in trouble with the law  – usually for substance abuse and related offenses), taking children  to various doctors’ appointments (children have many medical issues in Appalachia), standing in line in social services offices or trying to read and understand various government applications and regulations in their endless quest to try to simply feed themselves and their families*. The lucky ones, who have managed to stay out of trouble, can sometimes find jobs – usually at minimum wage. Average commute to a job from this county is 30 miles, so cars are necessities.

Abandoned Grocery Store, Midtown TN

Another barrier for the ‘arranging’ of being with other members of their race revolves around counties having the ability to revoke a driver’s license for unpaid fines (including traffic fines). If a person has a fender bender and is found to be at fault and is fined, if they can’t pay the fine, the counties revoke their driver’s license. They can get their license back by going on a payment plan with the county or outside collection agency who charge a usurious interest rate. But, if you can’t get to a job, you have no money. If you have no money, you can’t pay on the payment plan and the amount you owe just increases and increases and increases because of the interest rate. It is a vicious cycle that can kick people into homelessness.

Downtown Harriman, TN

If they can’t afford a car or if they lose their license, then they can’t work or shop for food. Going to the grocery store requires a car. The downtown areas in towns they once could walk to from their homes are sadly empty; what used to be grocery, hardware, appliance stores now just look out with dirty, empty windows onto the streets sliding further and further into decay.

Younger people of Appalachia often ‘arrange’ to seek out people of color (usually Latino or African American) because very often these people have jobs and prospects. They look at having relationships with these minorities as a possible means of escape from a life of poverty and hopelessness, but those liaisons rarely work out over the long term (for a lot of reasons).

So yes, the white people of Appalachia can ‘arrange’ to be with members of their race, but it takes a lot of planning, coordination and luck.

*In Roane County, TN, where I live (population 53,047) we have an 18.1% poverty rate – with many people hovering just one paycheck away from slipping below the wage thresholds for the federal category for poverty or even into homelessness.  Nearly 35% of the children in the county are classified as poor and are on some type of public nutritional assistance. Many adults in Roane County do not read above a third grade level if that.

 

 

Letter in Protest of House Rules Change for Censorship

Written to Congressman Chuck Fleischmann, 3rd District Tennessee

Dr. Mr. Fleischmann:

I am writing you today to ask you to vote against the proposed change to the House of Representatives rules that will fine members for posting live video/photos from the House floor. This is in response to the June 2016 sit in conducted by Democrats when they attempted to force a vote on gun violence legislation which Speaker Ryan denied.

‘…After Democrats seized the floor and refused to yield, Republicans shut down the chamber. C-SPAN had been airing the demonstration, but its cameras, which are controlled by the House majority, were turned off when the House shut down. The network then picked up a cellphone live-stream from one of the lawmakers protesting.From politico.com.

As an American and one of your constituents, I have grave concerns about this action. The members that participated in the ‘sit-in’ only began livestreaming when the C-SPAN feed was cut off. When the stream was stopped, Americans were denied the opportunity to see Congress in action – which includes the good, the bad and the ugly.

We have the right to see our representatives at work, and any attempt at censorship should be met with the most stringent resistance.

The excuse of ‘changes “will help ensure that order and decorum are preserved in the House”’ is specious at best. The House majority gave up any claim to that argument when the GOP accepted Donald Trump as its nominee for President of the United States.

Thank you and I will be watching how you vote on this issue.

Advertisers Contacted Stop Supporting Fake News

12/14/16 – contacted via twitter

Fitbit

12/13/16 – contacted via twitter

Bestbuy

ADT

Please remove your advertising from the fake news site Genesis Communications. It promoted the Sandy Hook as a hoax

 

Hostgator

Geico

Quaker

Hulu

Toyota

Shutterfly

Citicards

ATT

ADT (have no idea how to contact them)

Here is the letter:

I am one of your customers and I am working to eliminate as much fake news as possible from my life. I was looking at one website – Genesis Communications, which is the home of Alex Jones’ hatemongering “Infowars” program and I saw your advertisement right next to some of his hate speech. Do you really want your brand tarnished in this manner?

A War on Fake News – Cut off the Supply Lines

I am tired of fake news. I am tired of how fake news had such a huge impact on the election, I am tired of it clogging up my social media feeds, I am tired of people using it to make arguments about what is ‘really’ happening in the world.

People who are producing fake news are making as much as $60,000 a month on lies and propaganda. How? They are raking in money from Google Adsense and other similar pay per click advertising services: (See http://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/fake-news-how-partying-macedonian-teen-earns-thousands-publishing-lies-n692451)

So – I have started my own little war. The first thing I am doing is reporting every ‘click-baitey’ site I see on Facebook. The second thing I am doing is blocking people who spread fake news (whether from the right OR the left) The third thing I am doing is writing advertisers on various fake news sites (which so far have included Toyota, Shutterfly, Quaker and Hulu in the past 15 minutes). I am reporting seeing their ads on the site(s) and asking them if they are aware how their brand is being tarnished by such associations. Companies who go with a service like Adsense don’t necessarily know where their ads are going to end up, HOWEVER, they can eliminate their advertising from these sites.

My letter goes like this – usually sent through the contact email address for feedback.

I am one of your customers and I am working to eliminate as much fake news as possible from my life. I was looking at one website – Genesis Communications, which is the home of Alex Jones’ hatemongering “Infowars” program and I saw your advertisement right next to some of his hate speech. Do you really want your brand tarnished in this manner?

Alex Jones (Infowars host who made the claim that the Sandy Hook shooting was a hoax) reportedly makes $1.5 million a year peddling hate and propaganda. I think his funding should be cut off and the man should have to start working for a living like the rest of us.

To find who is supporting these sites, you generally have to look at the bottom of the page.

If enough of us speak up, we will be able to starve out the liars.

Guidelines on how to weed out fake news sites.

http://www.npr.org/2016/12/11/505154631/a-finders-guide-to-facts

 

Tennesseans – Please Call Your State Representatives – TN Laws that Victimize the Poor

– update lawsuit has been filed-

http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/2017/01/05/lawsuit-tennessee-drivers-license-law-punishes-poor/96204462/

 

 

Very few people seem to be aware of two different decisions made by our State Legislature that completely victimize the poor and put struggling people on the road to homelessness, illness and hopelessness.

The first is TCA 40-24-105. This law that was implemented a few years ago allows counties to seize driver’s licenses for non-payment of traffic fines, court costs and other fines. So, in most of Tennessee there are few options for mass transit so when a person’s drivers license is seized they lose their ability for the possibility of working to pay the fine.

There is a 180 day stay for:

(3) (A) A person who is unable to pay any portion of assessed litigation taxes, court costs, and fines may apply one (1) time to the court having original jurisdiction over the offense for an order staying the revocation of the license issued under title 55. An order to stay the revocation of the license shall be granted if the court finds that the person would experience extreme hardship from the revocation of the license and that no other means of transportation are reasonably available to the person. Grounds for finding of extreme hardship are limited to travel necessary for:

(i) Employment; or

(ii) Serious illness of the person or an immediate family member.

(B) The offender seeking a hardship exception shall make application to the court in the form of a sworn affidavit stating with particularity the grounds and circumstances of hardship. The court may enter a one-time stay for a period of not longer than one hundred and eighty (180) days. The court clerk shall promptly notify the commissioner of safety of the issuance or termination of any stay of revocation. The commissioner of safety shall not revoke any license under this subsection (b) while the stay is in effect.

However, if someone can’t pay the fine to begin with, it is not likely they are going to be able to pay it in 180 days.

homeless_person_on_3rd_st_memphis_tn_2013-01-20_006I think this law needs to be reexamined and wage garnishment be pursued as an alternative measure of collection (fully understand the heavy debt some counties carry because of fines) and/or community service for those without the ability to pay. Multiple offenses or serious traffic accidents should be treated as they always have been.

I have contacted my county office that does this collection and my legislators, but have not received any response.

Article from Washington Post regarding a similar law in VA:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/public-safety/justice-department-virginia-may-be-punishing-poor-by-suspending-drivers-licenses/2016/11/10/760930a6-a6c5-11e6-ba59-a7d93165c6d4_story.html

You can read the TN law here:

http://search.mleesmith.com/tca/40-24-0105.html

Contact Tennessee Legislators Here

The second piece of legislation that victimizes the poor of our state is the failure of the Tennessee Legislature to accept federal medicaid expansion. This means that unless you are disabled, are a child covered under CHP, or in another extremely limited group you have no means of paying for health care.

In my county (Roane), what the poor have to do if they are sick is call the county health department on Thursday from 9 am – 9:15 am to try to get an appointment. The line is usually busy and appointments are difficult to obtain. The other option is to go to the Emergency Room, where they have to be treated but cannot pay – so that cost is passed along to everyone. There is no provision for follow up appointments with specialists etc.

And, as so many of the poor have reading disabilities or literacy challenges the simple understanding of the process is nearly impossible.

This situation is shameful. Please urge your legislator to accept the Medicaid expansion.

More information on the Medicaid issue here:

https://www.healthinsurance.org/tennessee-medicaid/

http://www.tn.gov/tenncare/article/categories

 

 

A Worthwhile Bill Introduced in the US House of Representatives

schoolhouse-rock-billIn light of the recent (rather shocking) election I have done some soul searching and have come to the conclusion that I have been rather lazy about politics. After living in Washington, DC, for 15 years and working in various lobbying groups for 10 years, I am very jaded about the political process and how much the average American actually has a say in what happens inside the Capital Beltway.

So, in my soul searching I sat down and made an attempt to sort out what is really important to me, as an American and as an individual. Issues that I can understand and that I think will have an effect on my little world that I care about.

So, I was looking through current legislation that has been introduced in the Senate and the House this session and I found this bill that was introduced in the House Ways and Means Committee that has some very good merit for Nell’s World Order.

We have a huge problem with drug addiction in my state – not just meth, which is a PLAGUE –  but also prescription drugs. And I thought this little bill was something that was something that mattered to me as an individual.

The Bill (H.R.6262 — 114th Congress (2015-2016)) is titled Addiction Recovery through Family Health Accounts Act. It was introduced by Rep. Thomas MacArthur R-NJ. The summary is:

To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to expand the family members with respect to whom treatment for alcohol and drug addiction is treated as a qualified medical expense for purposes of health reimbursement arrangements, health flexible spending arrangements, and health savings accounts.

This was brought before the House Ways and Means Committee on 9/28/16.

I like the entire idea behind this – it is a small thing, but it could possibly have a big effect on an issue that means something to ME. The idea of being able to use FSA funds for addiction recovery is something that I believe is of real use to the average American.

I’m also glad to see that not everyone on Capitol Hill is just sitting on their butts and angling for cash to get re-elected. And thanks to Rep. MacArthur for introducing a bill that could actually help families with a problem that is epidemic where I live.

More information here:
https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/6262/titles?r=35

 

Guest Post on Epic Fantasy Writer – Humor in Epic Fantasy

Almost all authors (including myself) often ponder what is it that readers want. We spend hours, weeks, months, days, YEARS, writing, rewriting, editing, agonizing over a particular word, sentence or turn of phrase.

And still, very often the reader just does not buy into the story. They move onto the next downloaded sample from Amazon, the next game, the next movie or Pokémon Go and all that work is for naught – at least with that one particular reader…

Read the entire article here:

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