Photo by USA.gov
The 2020 United States Presidential election is on November 3! All over the media, there is a continuous buzz over this election. But why is it such a big deal and what exactly does it mean for our country, our communities, and our personal lives? We encourage you to read this article to learn more about the election and do further research on your own if you are still uncertain about any of the topics regarding the 2020 US presidential election. We recommend checking out the official US election website.
So what exactly is a presidential election and what does my vote do? The U.S presidential election is where “citizens of the United States who are registered to vote in one of the fifty U.S. states or in Washington, D.C., cast ballots not directly for those offices, but instead for members of the Electoral College.” This means that citizens are not directly voting for the president, but a group of people who are appointed by each state to then elect the president and vice president. This process is called the Electoral College. There are 538 electors in total, each representing a member of the House of Representatives and the Senate, plus 3 electors from the District of Columbia. The population of each state influences the number of electoral votes they get. The candidate with a higher percentage of votes in a specific state gets all of the electoral votes for that state(this all-or-nothing process does not apply to two of the fifty states), and the other candidate gets 0 electoral votes from that state, even if it was a close call. Sometimes, a candidate can win the popular vote, but not gain at least 270 electoral votes. The candidate that gains at least 270 electoral votes wins the presidency.
Now we know how votes are counted, but how do we choose who to vote for? This year, our two candidates are Donald Trump and Joe Biden. “The US political system is dominated by just two parties,” the Republicans, the conservative political party, and the Democrats, the liberal political party. The basic difference between the two parties is that Republicans believe in a “smaller”, weaker federal government where the federal government plays less of a role in our lives, while Democrats believe in a stronger, “bigger” federal government that plays a bigger role in the lives of its people. We highly recommend you do more research on what these two parties, and more specifically these two candidates, stand for if you do not already have a solid understanding.
Where can I vote? First, make sure that you are registered to vote. Visit this link to register to vote if you haven’t already. Due to COVID-19, there may not be as many polling places near you and they won’t be the same as they have been in the previous years(for safety precautions). As a result, many people are voting by mail-in absentee ballots. Note that in California, all citizens registered to vote will be mailed a ballot(no later than 29 days prior to November 3). Click this link to learn more about how you can vote this year.
Why should I vote? Voting is one of the most important rights granted to U.S citizens because it allows them to play a role in the type of leaders, representatives, and government they want to see in their country. Voting allows you to choose leaders who stand for things that are important to you and make the changes you want to see in your personal life, community, and country. Every single vote counts! In 2000, “Bush won Florida by 0.009 percent of the votes cast in the state, or 537 votes.” This example shows how close elections can get and how just a couple of votes can change the president that serves for the next four years and the course of history.
At Bridging Tech, educational equity is one of our core values. We strongly believe that every child should have access to a quality education that allows them to achieve their academic dreams. In order to fight the educational inequities prevalent in our society, we have to make changes to the education system at a nationwide level. This means that by evaluating our candidates’ values, policies, plans, and what they stand for, we can put our votes towards making the changes we want to see in our country.
The more people that vote, the more change that is created. #VotingMatters
Visit https://www.usa.gov/voting for all the information on the presidential election.
Photo by Loan-Anh Pham/ San Jose Spotlight
Earlier this week, Santa Clara County’s Continuum of Care put together a plan to end homelessness in the county. This plan has been in the making since 2015, but because of the global pandemic, implementing this plan is more urgent than ever. COVID-19 has left many economically uncertain, jobless, and without child care, causing more residents to become homeless. This public health crisis has called for a shelter in place order and more extreme preventative health measures. However, these orders are harder to meet for the homeless community.
The leading factor causing homelessness is the “extreme lack of housing options that are affordable for low-income residents.” According to a Public Policy Institute of California report, families making the lowest income levels in the Bay Area have 12 times less the income of the families at the highest income level. In fact, the income of “low wage” families has dropped by 12% in Santa Clara County in the last 5 years. Yet, that’s only one of the problems of affordable housing facing that group. In 2018, there were only 34 houses available for every 100 low-income workers in San Jose, meaning that the lack of affordable housing and low income makes it common for low wage families to be on the brink of homelessness.
Although the ages of homeless residents can be very diverse, the racial group isn’t. Hispanics, Native Americans, and African Americans together make up 30% of the general population in Santa Clara County. However, they also make up 68% of the homeless population in the county. Clearly, “racial inequities are a factor in driving homelessness” and people of color are more likely to experience it. The County hopes to address the racial bias in the system and make supportive housing programs more accessible and available to people of color.
In these past few months, these numbers have been rapidly increasing and it is expected that they will continue to rise. Over 80% of homeless residents are unsheltered and are sleeping in unstable places. And for every individual or family that is housed in the county, two or three more end up homeless. By 2025, there will be 20,000 more people who will become homeless if this trend continues. It is crucial that the County acts upon this now so that we don’t have to live this future.
County officials and leaders plan to help resolve this issue by housing 20,000 people in the next five years, preventing more people from ending up on the streets, and improving the quality of life in shelters and encampments. The plan includes expanding their homeless prevention program so that they can serve 2,500 people per year and increasing the construction of homes for the homeless. As for shelters, they will be doubling the number of beds and allowing residents to “ bring pets and store personal items at shelters, live in sanctioned homeless camps with access to hygiene and support services, and receive better access to housing services and support.” In addition, they will also be providing more resources and outreach to those on the street and those in danger of it.
Funding for this plan will come from Measure A( $950 million affordable housing bond passed in 2016), the city of San Jose, state & federal government, Santa Clara County, and private donors.
Ending homelessness is a big step for the county and the Bay Area. During this time, it is of the utmost importance that we are protecting those that are most vulnerable. This plan will be a great example and foundation for plans to come in ending homelessness in other regions in the Bay Area. Now, we can better imagine a Bay Area with brighter futures and lives.
It’s a no-brainer that the pandemic has turned regular life upside down for everyone. Many are working from home, students are attending school online, restaurants are open only for takeout, and the streets are eerily quiet as everyone has been sheltering in place. But recently I had to ask myself, “How has the pandemic affected me?” Sure, all my schoolwork has been on the computer, I can’t see my friends, and I only leave my house to go to the store or for the occasional walk, but fundamentally, nothing has really changed for me. My family has been lucky enough to be a part of the small percentage of Americans who can safely work from home while still earning the same income. I still have a roof over my head, food on my plate at every meal, and a warm bed to sleep in at night. Unfortunately, many Americans have not had the same pandemic experience as me.
According to the Pew Research Center, as of late March, 29 percent of white Americans said someone in their household had lost their job or work-related income because of the pandemic. However, 36 percent of black Americans and 49 percent of Hispanic Americans said the same. In addition, results taken from a survey conducted by the University of Chicago showed that low-income households were the most concerned about jobs, income stability, and health care coverage. One key finding from the household impact survey states that "More than half of low-income respondents reported being worried about losing their job, compared to less than 20% of higher-income Americans.” These alarming statistics have made one thing clear: the pandemic is disproportionately affecting racial minorities and low-income individuals and families.
In the upcoming months, and maybe even years, there will really be two pandemics in America. The first will seem frightening to its victims, but thanks to their existing advantages and privileges, they will likely emerge from it physically, mentally, and financially stable. But the other pandemic will devastate those who have endured it, leaving lasting scars and changing life as they know it. Which of these two pandemics any given American will experience will be determined by a mix of race and class—influenced strongly by inequality—and random chance.
As the pandemic has furthered the already existing disparities in America, it’s important to take the time to reflect on one’s own pandemic experience. If you find that your experience is likely to be similar to the first pandemic listed, like me, maybe the more important question to ask yourself is not how the pandemic affected you, but how you can use your privileges to help those who are in need.
Black Lives Matter, which involves countless petitions, a coalition of social media efforts, and an estimated 15 million to 26 million protestors, has become one of the largest movements in American history. Activists continue to pioneer for long-overdue civil rights through their respective contributions- one pivotal way being the creation of nonprofits concentrated on racial inequality or the growth of black communities. While these organizations provide a welcome service, it is important to also recognize nonprofits that aided black lives long before the movement made headlines. One example is BlackGirlsCode, which has focused on introducing girls of color to computer coding and STEM since 2011. The organization plans to “provide African-American youth with the skills to occupy some of the 1.4 million computing job openings expected to be available in the U.S. by 2020, and to train 1 million girls by 2040.” This ambitious endeavor not only addresses a severe lack of diversity in technology-based jobs, but allows for the closing of gender gaps in typically male-dominated roles.
Additionally, BlackGirlsCode acknowledges the digital divide and its harmful cyclical effects on communities of color, especially in locations across America where technology is a necessity. In order for the organization to build digital literacy, they must have devices to begin with. Their website writes that “sadly, San Francisco’s digital divide falls along the same racial and social fault lines that characterize so many of society’s issues. White households are twice as likely to have home Internet access as African American houses.” In a diversified space such as San Francisco, disadvantaged, often minority children, must have devices and the bandwidth to use that technology in order to succeed. Without the same opportunities as their peers and classmates, social and economic mobility becomes close to impossible. When nonprofits such as The Bridging Tech Charitable Fund supply devices, while BlackGirlsCode teaches minority children how to use said technology, communities are elevated through the efforts of society as a whole.
The new commonly voiced mantra “stay at home” in light of the ongoing pandemic has a very different meaning for the population of about 1.4 million Americans who currently use transitional housing or homeless shelters. While the amount of people in this group fluctuates due to unemployment rates at an all time high, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has proposed a community based approach dependent on local government leadership, law enforcement, healthcare service providers, etc. to handle the spread of coronavirus within shelters. The CDC maintains that it is imperative to keep existing housing open, with additional preventative and responsive measures in place; however, the real difficulty lies in the systematic approach taken when concerning COVID-19 testing.
Maxmen of Nature writes that tests are rare, so a significant portion of a shelter remains untested until after an outbreak has occurred. Shelters can only afford to test those with symptoms due to their limited resources, despite the reality that most people carrying the virus tend to be asymptomatic. This unfortunately ensures that outbreaks spread unnoticed, rendering these communal houses an epicenter of the virus. For example, “by the time a person from a shelter in San Francisco had been diagnosed with COVID-19 in April, more than 90 other residents and 10 people who worked there were already infected.”
The failure to protect infected individuals in a highly populated, close-quarters setting results in transmission rates increasing rapidly, with the entire nation falling further into more and more cases. Though certain cities have begun to provide accommodations to their homeless populations through hotel rooms, a majority still reside in tents or large housing arrangements. Maxmen corroborates that “without further interventions, more than 21,300 homeless people in the United States will need to be hospitalized for COVID-19.” It is clear that policymakers need to keep these communities in mind when taking action to support the nation as a whole.
Recent nationwide developments have forced a spotlight onto America’s inequities, allowing for the birth of new systems, braver generations, and a more accepting space for those most marginalized. Despite the large strides taken, by no means is our work completed - systemic racism perpetuates our society everywhere from generational poverty cycles to normalized microaggressions.
Bridging Tech strives to rectify an inequality exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic; a disparity that has always been inherent but is now unmistakable in an age of social distancing and online learning. This problem, coined as the digital divide, is the difference between families who have internet connection and access to tech devices, and those who do not. Students in the latter families suffer as a result, and the rift spawned from this divide, the homework gap, is born.
A lack of means to access the internet limits opportunities to learn, making it difficult to complete assignments, obtain necessary information, and be academically successful. Personally, I can attest to the technological advantages privileged students are afforded over other low-income teens, as I currently attend a private high school in which every student has an iPad on them at all times. Small things that seem unremarkable to me such as a designated IT desk or homework assigned over Zoom calls are impossible in public schools that have to account for their students who may be left behind.
Most alarming are the cyclical effects of these disadvantages, in which minority kids and teens without devices score lower on standardized tests than their wealthier peers and suffer from lower graduation rates. When these students never received the opportunity to succeed in the first place, it becomes less and less likely that the children and grandchildren in these low income families will get better chances than those who came before them. It’s time for a new age of tech in the Bay - one where a student, regardless of their family’s financial status, can achieve what any other kid growing up in Silicon Valley can.