As many of you know, or are soon to find out, I am living in Boston right now to finish my degree. I cannot tell you how very excited I am to graduate and be back in Austin, but for now I’m here in Boston. And here in Boston our public transportation system is called the T. It includes busses, trains, light-rail trollies, commuter rails for those coming into and out of Boston, and ferries. The T, like public transportation elsewhere, is primarily used by people of color, young people and people who live in poor neighborhoods. They can’t afford to buy a car, so they have to take the T. It is literally the only way to get around the city if you don’t have a car because bikes cannot access some parts of the city.
Despite this, or perhaps because of this, the T is consistently underfunded and in debt. This is because all of the debt that the Big Dig (an expensive feat of unsurpassed magnitude in the field of tunnel engineering) accrued, which benefits mostly white middle and upper class car owners, is dumped on the back of the T and, by extension, the riders of the T. Young people, people of color and poor people end up paying for Big Dig debt. So how do the managers of the T propose to close that debt gap? Well, increase fares and cut services of course!
In the face of all this, T riders and those invested in making life livable for POC, poor people and young people (three groups which overlap immensely!) are doing massive organizing to push back against the hikes and cuts. Everyone from the Massachusetts Senior Action Council, to the Roxbury Environmental Empowerment Project (a youth-led organization), to the T Riders Union to the T workers themselves have held protests, rallies and teach-ins. They call for a sustainable way to deal with the debt that doesn’t involve vital service cuts or hikes that make it inaccessible to those that need it most. They call for a reasonable, just and supportable way to handle the debt. They are asking for solutions that involve long-term sustainability and not band-aid fixes. They are asking that the state make the T a priority.
Basically, what they are asking for is that the government prioritize the needs of people of color and poor people. They are asking for economic justice.
But the government won’t do that.
Not because it’s not sensible or feasible. Not because they lack the resources. Not because it is too difficult logistically. No, the reason they won’t do it is because they have no reason to do it. They, the politicians and government, are in the pocket of corporations and Big Money. There is no reason for them to invest in the empowerment of oppressed peoples. Why would they invest in that when they can just continue to remain in power? There is no incentive for them to invest in the T because in doing so, they cut their profits and empower those people who are oppressed.
I know this sounds really pessimistic of me but think about it. In the past couple years, we have seen a consistant cuts against those safety nets that keep us afloat; from food stamps, to grants for higher education, to affordable housing and access to healthcare, just to name a few. And this during a time when companies are reporting record profits! Prices go up but we aren’t making any more money. Trickle down economics doesn’t work because we need more than just a trickle, we need a goddamn river! But the government will continue to ignore our needs because of all the money and lobbyists that those big corporations pour into the State House.
Real social change isn’t going to come from the State House nor from those who we elect. We have tried reforming the system and it hasn’t worked. Real social change will only come when we completely revolutionize and radicalize the way our society work so that power is truly accountable to those who are the most oppressed. Where power and resources are equitably shared.
It’s time we rise up and take matters into our own hands.