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Cancel Debts Not People

Collection: Cancel Debts Not People Shirts, Prints, and Stencils

Elizabeth Warren has thrown her hat in on a bold idea that’s been in the air for a long time: cancel student loan debt.

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Not interest rate decreases, or refinancing, or other half-measures, but an all out cancelation of up to $50K in student loan debt for anyone whose income is $100K or less. Combined with universal free public higher education going forward.

cancel debts not people t-shirt in blue
Cancel Debts Not People Unisex Tee in Royal Blue

I was first introduced to this idea back in the early 2010s the Rolling Jubilee, a project by Strike Debt, which has now evolved into The Debt Collective.

Their project leveraged one of the most dysfunctional aspects of student loan debt: the fact that the debts get bundled and resold, over and over, for pennies on the dollar.

Rolling Jubilee raised $701,317 dollars (a few of which were mine, even as a broke post-grad student living under a pile of debt) and bought bundles of debt worth a total of $31,982,455.76.

Then, instead of trying to collect those debts, they abolished them. Poof. Gone. No more debt for the people whose loans were part of those bundles.

Those numbers highlight how broken, and at this point imaginary, the entire debt-debtor relationship is.

cancel debts not people t-shirt in charcoal
Cancel Debts Not People Feminine Cut Tee in Charcoal

In what world does $700K buy $31M?

The broken world we currently live in.

The organizers of Rolling Jubilee were clear that their project was intended to be a spark — “not a solution to the debt crisis.”

Years later, it looks like that idea is ready to catch fire. Our world might be on the verge of transition.

As Elizabeth Warren raises the progressive bar for any would-be Democratic nominee for the 2020 US general election, other candidates — and their supporters — will have to come down on one side or the other of this issue. All this in a primary that is shaping up to have social justice issues as central platform points.

And I can’t help but celebrate this as a potential material social justice gain.

Incurring debt in order to pursue higher education is a barrier to accessing many currently-elitist dimensions of society. Requiring a college degree (and, increasingly, a graduate degree of some kind) is an effective way to keep historically disenfranchised people disenfranchised.

Cancel Debts Not People Print (24" x 36")
Cancel Debts Not People Print (24″ x 36″)

And it’s a barrier that disproportionately affects poor and lower-middle-class people, first generation (or generationally poor) people, undocumented people, and people of color. “Student loan debt weighs more heavily on students of color than on their white counterparts.”

We’re in a moment when a lot of social justice advocates, activists, and educators — myself included — are struggling to articulate exactly what policy, or change, we seek.

A lot of social justice action that is dominating the mainstream right now can be summed up as “cancel culture.” At least in online activism, it is the zeitgeist many of us are currently swept up in.

We can’t know how effective “canceling” people for bigoted, oppressive, or problematic behaviors will be in the long run for advancing the goals of social justice.

But it’s clear that if the tactic is effective, it can only be through a series of indirect, convoluted events — one thing leading to another, a butterfly effect of culture change and mindset shifting. And its success will mean an astronomical body count of lives derailed. This alone, for many of us, makes it unappealing as a tactic.

Abolishing student loan debt paints a picture in sharp contrast to the tactic of canceling people in the name of social justice. The distance between cause and effect is one signature.

Cancel Debts Not People Stencil
Cancel Debts Not People Stencil (8.5″ x 11″)

Canceling student loan debt would have an immediate effect on people’s lives.

The benefits are obvious, intersectional, and massive.

Abolishing debt recognizes people’s humanity, instead of denying it.

The organizing principles surrounding canceling student debt foster solidarity, instead of undermining it.

This can serve as a concrete answer to “What do you mean by social justice?” A rallying cry for social justice that invigorates a jaded, disinterested, and disengaged majority.

I’m here for that. And I’ll happily wear it on my chest.

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Beto Late Than Never

I cried twice last night. The first time was at about 9:10pm when ABC called the race between Beto and Cruz. The second was at 11:14pm while watching Beto concede.

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Like a lot of my fellow progressive Texans, I suspect, my first reaction was a mix of exasperation, exhaustion, and  “of fucking course we voted Ted Cruz back in.”

Beto Late Than Never Unisex Tee

The second sob session was different. It hit me deep, listening to Beto talk, how much hope I’d allowed myself to experience. How I had gone, over the past 15 or so months, from “nope, never” to “unlikely, but possible,” to “maybe, but prolly not,” and, finally, to “I believe this can happen.”

What I didn’t realize was that something else was smuggled in with that hope.

In the year and a half, I’d been following Beto, and talking to people about him, and listening to his speeches, seeing his platform evolve, watching him take ever-more progressive stances on positions I care deeply about, seeing him become a national phenomenon, then — despite the odds and conventional political wisdom and nay-saying — seeing him get so damned close to winning… and that closeness — a few percentage points! — unraveled something in me.

Beto Late Than Never Feminine Crewneck Tee

Texas is no longer a place where I live despite my progressive politics.

Texas became a shining light of progressivism that illuminated the nation.

Beto did that. He gave that to us.

I know he said he’s not going to run in 2020. And I know he’s already given us so much. In hours, in miles traveled, in moving the needle, in hope and passion and inspiration.

But I made this shirt for myself to take just a little bit more from Beto. To take a feeling with me these next couple of years: progressivism is Texan now, y’all.

And I’m going to be so fucking proud to wear that on my chest.

– sK

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Hey! Important note: This shirt is not officially affiliated with the Beto for Texas (or Beto for America) campaign, and any dollars you gift (whatever you pay beyond the cost of the shirt + printing) will not be donated to Beto. It was created prior to Beto announcing his run for President, with the hope of him running for Senate in Texas again in 2020 (or Governor!), and donating the funds raise to that campaign. I’m not removing the shirt now that he’s moved on to bigger/green pastures (for posterity and transparency).