Former police officer Derek Chauvin was sentenced to 22 1/2 years in prison for the murder of George Floyd last month. “Your skin color should not define who you are,” Floyd’s brother, Philonise, told reporters shortly after the sentencing. “It should never be a weapon.” With Chauvin now in prison we ask: What are the likely battlegrounds ahead? Where are the opportunities for change? Join us for a look at bold ideas to #ResetAmerica that are sparking debates nationwide, many of them from OZY readers and guests of The Carlos Watson Show.
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Freshman U.S. Rep. Byron Donalds is pro-Trump, Republican and Black. He’s an advocate for viewing the Republican Party through different eyes, especially when it comes to Black Lives Matter and police reform. On The Carlos Watson Show, Donalds acknowledges that while “we do have bad apples in all police forces” and that we “need better training in a lot of departments,” defunding the police and pulling officers off the street is the wrong way to go. Instead, he thinks police violence is a problem that can be solved “with proper training.”
With Juneteenth this year elevated to the status of a federal holiday, activists are asking: What next? Some are calling on lawmakers to abolish forced prison labor , a system that “employs” a disproportionate amount of people of color. It’s an ugly legacy of slavery in the U.S. that many want removed, including OZY reader Monique Lewis. “Take capitalism out of the prison systems. Prison labor should not be used for commercial purposes. If the commercialization incentive is gone, perhaps we will start to see equitable and fair treatments,” she says. Of the around 2 million adults incarcerated in American jails, nearly all able-bodied inmates are at work.
23 | Legislative Fellow | Colorado
The much-debated, drawn-out compromise on President Joe Biden’s proposed $1.2 trillion dollar infrastructure bill has laid bare the divisions in Congress. On Thursday, House Democrats passed a $715 billion transportation spending bill that sets a baseline for the party’s negotiations with Republicans on the broader spending deal. For conservative-leaning OZY reader Ben Arquit, who works on Capitol Hill, the debate over the bill is a perfect example of the increasing polarization within both parties. “Both parties don’t want to put forth a bill that their whole constituency won’t vote for, the only stuff that hits the floor is brought out when 100% of your party supports it.” For some progressives, the bill isn’t ambitious enough, and for others in the Democratic Party, it is far too ambitious. It’s a familiar pattern for Arquit. He’s seen a “lot of really great bills, that a majority of the party supports, but not the whole party, so it never makes it to the floor or into law.” Arquit feels that the cause for this funky phenomenon is that representatives, and Americans alike, feel like they need to “check all the party boxes” if they are going to claim to be a Democrat or a Republican.
34 | Member of Congress |
Critical race theory has been in the news a lot lately, and it’s shaping up to be an issue that could divide voters during the next election cycle. U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert has been a vocal opponent of critical race theory being taught in schools. In a June 8 news release, she called the theory a mechanism to “teach children to hate each other.” Critical race theory is a 40-year-old concept that correlates the experience of people of color in the U.S. with their race, and the systematic factors which determine their experience as a product of racism and white superiority. Boebert isn’t its only critic, but she is one of its loudest, especially on Twitter. Ultimately, she wants critical race theory to be banned from schools, even though teaching the concept is not mandatory nationwide.
21 | Student | Massachusetts
Homelessness in the U.S. rose for the fourth straight year in 2020 and has only increased since then due to the pandemic. With the end of the eviction moratorium looming, it’s expected to get even worse, especially for young adults, this summer. Could companies such as OZY Genius Award winner Tony Shu’s be the solution? Shu tells OZY he started Breaktime in Boston to “break the cycle of young adult homelessness through transitional employment.” Breaktime focuses on the most “critical factor to achieving stable housing, by providing a living wage job for three to six months.” His company also partners with organizations to create jobs that are “purposeful and community facing, positively impacting the confidence and sense of purpose within a young adult.” A sense of confidence is something that young adults facing the intense stigma around homelessness or joblessness sorely need.
Not many 22-year-olds are talented or driven enough to make it to the WNBA. But Aari McDonald, following a stellar career at the University of Arizona, is playing her first season with the Atlanta Dream. The team played a major role in Georgia’s elections when they endorsed Dr. Raphael Warnock over the team's former owner, Kelly Loeffler, and spoke out in support of Black Lives Matter. McDonald describes to Carlos Watson how her teammates adopted an open discussion policy about the issue. “Hey, if you want to talk to us, we're here. If you need to know anything, we're also here. We can talk. If you want to have a challenging situation or conversation, we can have that . . . this is a safe space, and we respect everyone's responses.” McDonald also points out that as much as they deserve to be known for their activism, they also deserve to be known for being the ballers that they are. For McDonald, sports and activism go hand in hand.
When actor Navid Negahban arrived in Hollywood, he quickly realized how easy it was for someone like him, a former refugee and non-native English speaker, to be taken advantage of. Born in Iran, Negahban fled to Germany in 1985 amid the Iran-Iraq War. He arrived in the U.S. in 1993 and struggled to find his footing in Los Angeles. “Most of the time, especially when I was in L.A., I was sleeping in my car,” he says on The Carlos Watson Show. “And I was sleeping on the park benches, and the trunk of my car was my office.” His experiences led him to start an artist collective in Los Angeles dedicated to helping refugees like him find their way in the City of Angels. “I’m trying to create a space like a support system,” Negahban explains, reflecting his determination to help diversify Hollywood and assist fellow refugees.
America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan has raised questions about the ability of the Afghan government to deal with the Taliban. Those concerns are shared by politician and activist Fawzia Koofi, who is part of ongoing peace negotiations between Afghanistan's parliament and the Taliban. “President Biden’s announcement . . . put the Taliban in a position where they will win anyway: militarily or politically,” she says, noting that the withdrawal announcement should have come after the countries had reached a political settlement. Koofi believes that the way forward for Americans is to reinvest in protecting Afgan women and their right to education. “Americans were not in Afghanistan because they wanted to protect women . . . but they were here, and women allied with them. They should continue to financially support women’s education, employment and institutions that help women.”
Being a trans student carries a host of challenges, including feeling like you have to educate your teachers about your identity. OZY Genius Award winner Dan Eggers is all too familiar with feeling like it’s his responsibility to inform the people around him about his gender identity. This is why he created a training program to help educators create safe spaces for trans students. Such understanding, he believes, is more essential than ever. “If you don’t know us, of course we are going to seem scary and unknown,” Eggers says. “I’ve seen that the people proposing these bills against trans youth have come out and admitted that they have never met a trans youth in their life. So it’s a lack of knowledge that’s leading this discrimination and hate.”
23 | Student | Wisconsin
There is no better food for a child’s brain than games, according to OZY Genius Award winner Joel Baraka. Baraka grew up in a refugee camp in Uganda after his family fled civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Now, the 23-year-old attends the University of Wisconsin and is pursuing a degree in civil engineering. Baraka was inspired by his experiences to create the board game 5 STA-Z, which he designed to help deliver an education alongside a slice of fun. Board games are the perfect avenue for both because, according to Baraka, “People [in refugee camps] don’t even have phones, don’t have laptops, so online learning is almost impossible.” He tells OZY, “It’s so amazing to know that I’m helping children from home.” Are board games the future of learning?