K Travis Ballie

Some Progressive Thoughts This Morning

Filed By K Travis Ballie | April 02, 2009 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality, Politics

As part of my ongoing freakout about needing a job, I've been networking like its the end days lol. These are some questions from another year long political campaign program that I applied to this morning:

If elected to office, what two initiatives would you undertake or what two issues would be most important to you?

Thumbnail image for Clenched Fist.jpgI believe that unions are the backbone of securing a middle class future. Secondly, as a business major and the son of a business owning mom, I often see the economic clout that can be built for disadvantaged communities if they are provided opportunities to embrace their entrepreneurial spirit.

I have interned with the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and am currently getting my mom's business certified as a Womens' Owned Business (working with the Womens' Chamber of Commerce on that). I chose these activities because no power can be achieved without some economic clout, and minority business owners are so key to community uplifting initiatives.

Even beyond economic clout, they offer a culturally specific, culturally enriching environment for fellow community members to work and do business in. It also keeps wealth within those communities, increasing fellow community members' political clout even if they do not own or are employed by the business in question.

My mother went from working at a KFC to discovering the beauty industry to starting her own hair salon. Her career has provided the funds for me to attend a prestigious school in Washington D.C. as a first generation American and a first generation college student. I am humbled by the power of small businesses run by members of disadvantaged communities.

Unions are also crucially important in the progressive movement and without them my grandmother, whose first job in this country was working as a maid in the Marriott, would not have acquired the funds to send my mom, uncles and aunts to trade schools. Unions started the process of wealth accumulation for my very working-class, poor immigrant family. They put the financial situation in place that allowed my grandmother to pay for my mom to go to beauty school.

My mom's small business basically paid for my college, but it was unions that provided my family with the opportunity to accumulate wealth to use for education.

A few years ago I committed my life to these movements that have provided so much opportunity to both my family and myself. I can think of no job more glamorous, more prestigious or more fulfilling than the work that community organizers and progressive elected officials do to make the same opportunities that my, very fortunate, family had to others.

I carry this story with me in every campaign that I organize. Every organizer needs that one story that keeps them at work that late night when a campaign is down to the wire. They need that story to prevent them from burning out. It is not something you can be taught or learn, but it just has to be experienced. This story fuels my activism.

What two policy reforms would you most like to see made in this country or in your community, and how would you go about pursuing that change?

It has been humbling to see so many reforms happen in the past few months, especially the Rockefeller Drug Laws in New York. I believe that our prison system in unsustainable, racially discriminatory and classist, and wholly inappropriate for the purposes of rehabilitation. The prison system nationwide needs serious reform and I view this as one of the key reforms I would work on as an elected official. I have tremendous respect for Senator Jim Webb from Virginia for his work on this issue.

He made me realize that not every senator is wholly disconnected from reality and that some can even advocate for issues not usually on the public radar. He made my happy because he reminded me that politics isn't all about dramatics, capitulating and media pruning, but also that merely stating ones view on an issue has a direct impact on advocates for that issue.

Our prison system is handicapping the economic progress and improvement of people of color, immigrant and women communities. Furthermore, they are at present a very wasteful institution that has been horribly mismanaged by private institutions. When I think of the racial disparities in crack/powder cocaine prosecutions, I'm reminded that every community has drug users, but our prison system is not based on rehabilitating those who make the decision to engage in narcotics. Rather, our prison system functions on policing certain communities, such as African-American and lower income communities, and punishing narcotics users- punish, not rehabilitate- from those communities at a disproportionate amount than users from other communities. These policies make no moral, logical or even economical sense.

Another reform I would work on as an elected official would have to be the rights associated with marriage. I support marriage equality, however that issue is only the beginning of redefining marriage to apply to a 21st century world. My single grandmother, like many grandparents in Florida, was the sole individual tasked with raising my brother and I as my mom struggled to get her career of the ground.

Though my grandmother was my sole provider and "parent", she did not qualify for many of the benefits to raise me that a married, heterosexual couple would have qualified for. Our support system for children is largely based on a two person, man and women couple, married relationship. This type of relationships is a valued part of America, but not by far the only family structure.

This is not a new development, different family structures have always existed, but have remained largely unable to access support, which make them more invisible. It is not that we need to redefine our marriage laws so much as we have to decouple some of the rights associated with marriage from the institution of marriage. We must do this because there are families in dire need who need assistance, regardless of whether or not they fit some narrow, dated definition of "family". This is the most pro-family policy I can think of. I want to honor all families, not just the ones that fit some social construction of what a family, as some see, can only be.

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