[BLOG] Just Out of Reach

“He frustrateth the devices of the crafty, so that their hands can perform nothing substantial” Job 5:12 (The Israel Bible™)

With success just out of reach, millennials turn to social justice

Having grown up in the Silicon Valley and attended UC Berkeley, I am no stranger to the cutthroat competitive atmosphere of the California Bay Area. Indeed, now that I work as one of many contractors at a large tech company, I feel the burden looming for all of us to find a job that actually pays health insurance and 401k. What’s an artist to do? Scratch that – what’s anyone besides a physician, lawyer or engineer to do in a hub of huge companies that prefer to minimize risk by contracting workers with no long-term guarantee or benefits?

Of course, this pressure is felt in many pockets of our country and all over the globe. But for the sake of scale and time, let’s focus on the bubble of the Bay. Following increasing suicides among alumni of the prestigious Gunn High School as well as various other Bay Area schools, skepticism has arisen in the past couple of years as to the danger of this pressure to excel in school and in life in general.[1] After all, is there a more pressing issue than good grades being a guarantee to a great job?

Well – if the numerous Occupy movements across U.S. campuses and largely in the Bay Area are anything to go by, socioeconomic and all other kinds of justice have taken the spotlight of what many of these students prioritize up to graduation. Along with their studies, of course. Along with the Occupy movements, increases in activity behind movements such as Black Lives Matter, Pride celebration and Muslim-American advocacy have emerged to combat social obstacles such as police brutality against Black Americans, LGBTQ citizens and Muslim-Americans, respectively.

Is there a connection here? Could the indignance held by so many of these minority groups and their allies perhaps allude to the underlying fear that it has become incredibly difficult to succeed in such a competitive environment. Even with affirmative action, many Black, LGBT, Muslim, Hispanic and other minority Americans may feel at a disadvantage to their non-minority counterpart. But what has white, East Indian, East Asian and Jewish-American students so distraught? Aren’t these groups typically stereotyped as filling the roles of the community ‘brainiac’ – that is, doctor, lawyer, engineer or wildly successful entrepreneur?

As a Jewish woman myself, suffice to say that Mark Zuckerberg is a lot to live up to. According to renowned psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchical model of human needs, we are driven to obtain security (i.e. employment and financial) before we can feel confident enough to be accepted by society or even to accept ourselves.[2]  

[ubm_premium banners=290 count=1]

Therefore, picture this: Indian student Maniak Sarkar has been working his entire life to obtain the eventual milestone of a PhD. His thesis has been consistently denied by his professor at UCLA, and so his long-sought career in academia is teetering on the edge of impossible, along with all of the time and reputation he has placed on his quest to reach this point. Now wouldn’t it be easier to claim that his professor was biased or that the system was rigged? Just something to sooth his utter sense of failure and lack of future job security? Of course – and yet, East Indians do not enjoy that disadvantaged status in U.S. society to the extent that other groups do. After all, East Indians boast a 70% college educated population, with 28% in engineering or science feels, higher statistics than all other Asian-American populations.[3] Sarkar was well aware of his predicament and unfortunately, sought escape the only way he saw fit – with a murder-suicide in which both him and his professor were killed.[4]

So we reach a dichotomy in which there are the perpetually oppressed groups of American society, such as Blacks and Latinos. Informed individuals need only to refer to statistics to verify the median wealth of white households as 17 times that of Black and 10 times that of Latino households.[5] Then there are other minority communities such as Chinese and East Indians, who earn higher income than the U.S. national median[6] and so, for whom there is far less room for the excuse of institutionalized disenfranchisement or injustice. Yet, whites still earn the most.[7] Is it due to racism, or simply because whites are still the majority in the U.S.?

Questions of racism aside, perhaps this Occupy movement against the white ‘system’ could help to explain the backlash against Republicans and Christianity (arguably identifying factors of America’s founding fathers), following the Orlando shooter’s dedication of his attack to ISIS. Once again, the easier scapegoat is the evil white capitalist system, rather than religious extremists of any non-Christian faith. Perhaps this refusal to recognize wrongdoing in any communities other than the white, male power which we perceive to rule us is a result of young white folk currently terrified about securing a job in this virulent economy. Maybe – just maybe – this sense of resentment to the point where it even becomes white guilt could explain the support many of these liberal millennials have suddenly found for ‘marginalized’ groups. It is far easier to focus on the injustices of a system and blame everyone else than to ask why you yourself are not succeeding. It avoids the ever-pressing and oftentimes painful need for self-actualization and acceptance by family, friends and community.  

In brief – it is far more simple to blame the unfairness of capitalism than to acknowledge the nigh impossibility of making your mark in a sea of competition and obtaining a job with health benefits.

[1] Park, Jessica. “Palo Alto Teen Suicides Spark Fresh Debate on Stressful Student Life.” Local In The Peninsula. SFGate, 19 Dec. 2014. Web. 06 July 2016.

[2] McLeod, Saul. “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.” Simply Psychology. Simply Psychology, 17 Sept. 2007. Web. 06 July 2016.

[3] DeSilver, Drew. “5 Facts about Indian Americans.” Pew Research Center RSS. Pew Research Center, 30 Sept. 2014. Web. 06 July 2016.

[4] “Struggling Indian PhD Student Shoots Professor, Self in US.” Zee News. Zee Media Corporation, 02 June 2016. Web. 06 July 2016.

[5] Kochhar, Rakesh, and Richard Fry. “Wealth Inequality Has Widened along Racial, Ethnic Lines since End of Great Recession.” Pew Research Center RSS. Pew Research Center, 12 Dec. 2014. Web. 06 July 2016.

[6] Drake, Bruce. “Asian-Americans Lead All Others in Household Income.” Pew Research Center RSS. Pew Research Center, 16 Apr. 2013. Web. 06 July 2016.

[7] Drake, Bruce. “Asian-Americans Lead All Others in Household Income.” Pew Research Center RSS. Pew Research Center, 16 Apr. 2013. Web. 06 July 2016.