Understanding Systemic Racism in the United States

Why it has always been a problem, and how it impacts Modern American society today

 

Before I begin talking about my perceptions of race, I would like to first give my deepest condolences to George Floyd’s family and relatives, as well as others who have tragically lost a part of them through brutal, unjust, inhumane, and unnecessary torture. I cannot imagine what you all must be going through, but I want to better understand why things like this are happening almost every day, and I’d like to make sense of it all by sharing some insight into how I’ve perceived this. Still, I don’t want to sound unsympathetic or not caring by suggesting or implying that we should ignore the pain and struggle B/black people go through every day, but I think the best thing to be done is simply speak out and hold those accountable. I also don’t want to sound satirical by any means. And if you’re like me and want to learn how everything works, and if you also believe that science says, there’s no such thing as race, don’t let that fool you. As much as we’d love to hold that positive attitude, we still must support those in the Black community until one day comes that we would all eventually get along. I don’t know when that will be, though, or if that’ll ever happen. We must also approach this intersectionally, meaning that we should look at Black people in various communities, such as those with disabilities, different genders, socioeconomic backgrounds, etc. Here’s a bit of information on police interaction with Black individuals with disabilities. Some people are referring to this group as the Black, indigenous, and people of colour (BIPOC), community as a whole. Ultimately, we need to look at the whole picture and do our own part by not letting the media skew bias into what they’re telling us.

 

Where to Start

 

Before I can talk about systemic racism, I think it would be helpful to understand, from a scientific perspective, what race is, why it exists, and how it came to be an important aspect in almost every part of the world. I will be making analogous comparisons to a few books I have read, so there may be spoilers present, though I’ll do my best not to give anything away. If there is such a situation, they may be hidden from view. I will also provide in-line linked text so you can read more about that particular topic. Having said that… I will do my best to explain how it is that we, as humans, have evolved into what we are today.

We’ve only been around for about a hundred thousand years, and anthropologists believe that we all migrated from Africa to other parts of the world. According to this article, white supremacists held the belief that being white was a superiority that simply evolved from African descent. For this reason, people in the scientific community prefer to use the term ancestry or lineage. In 2003, for example, scientists completed the Human Genome Project, which is how you’re now able to get a home test kit and let the labs do the heavy lifting for you. Still, it’s not as accurate as standard genealogical sleuthing – combing through historical documents, reading books, talking to older relatives, and remembering oral stories passed down, which will tell you a whole lot more, especially from a cultural and heritage standpoint.

But how is it that we got here? Why is it that people from different ancestral backgrounds look different from others biologically, and are there any kinds of cultural identity surrounding that?

 

What is Race, anyway?

 

While completing the usual demographic form that you’ll most likely find when filling out an application or survey, I found one back in early 2019 that had a clear description of how these folx were considered by the United States Census Bureau, and you can find that list here.

  • African American or Black refers to people having origins in any of the Black racial groups of Africa and who migrated to the Americas or were born there.
  • American Indian or Alaskan Native refer to people having origins in any of the original peoples of North and South America (including Central America), and who maintain tribal affiliation or community attachment.
  • Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander refers to people having origins in any of the original peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, or other Pacific Islands.
  • Asian refers to people having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent (e.g. Asian Indian).
  • White refers to people having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa.
  • More than one race includes individuals who identify with two or more racial designations.

But why is Hispanic the only ethnicity?

Hispanic is an ethnic category for people whose origins are in the Spanish-speaking countries of Latin America or who identify with a Spanish-speaking culture. Individuals who are Hispanic may be of any race.

Okay, so we have a better understanding of who is considered what. I also wonder what became of the Atlantic Islanders. But when you first look at someone, what things tell you that this person belongs to this particular ancestry? For example, those from Asian descent tend to have a flatter nose, and those of African descent tend to have a broader nose compared to those of European descent. East Asians typically have less eyelid than a white or black person, A black person might have a larger lip, and hair texture can differ among these groups.

But why are these differences prevalent? What happened to actually cause these noticeable differences? Can they overlap?

I used to read quite a bit of classic literature from the public domain, and one of them talked about the theory of human evolution. This came after a discussion was held about how we used selective breeding to produce offspring with desirable characteristics in several areas. Still, humans didn’t need to use science to understand what they were doing. It’s therefore not a surprise to learn that incest is not so quite taboo in nature. Still, research has shown that the more this happens, the less diverse the gene pool will be, increasing the chances for many diseases and abnormalities to occur. But this is probably why some humans wanted to produce purebred animals, to increase their economic value and rarity. Some of this attitude later got engrained in the National Socialist German Workers party, i.e. Nazi party in what was coined eugenics. The idea was for people to only mate with other people with a similar likeness to them. For example, I’ve read several satirical posts about how scientists were breeding empathic humans, or how they only wanted smart people to mate with other smart people and thus reduce the number of stupid children.

But what other things besides eugenics and selective breeding, or artificial selection, determines how we look? Most of you will be familiar with Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species book that he wrote in 1859. He explored the theory of how natural selection works among different characteristics, such as gender, sex, race, ethnicity, etc., mostly in other animals besides humans, though he applied many of the same concepts to us, as well. Natural selection is also believed to be the reason why most humans have developed an innate ability to refrain from engaging in any incestuous activity, according to the article linked above. Females have been known to look for the best fitting mates, while males solely focused on planting the seed. Still, some cultures recognised arranged marriages and marrying distant cousins.

 

Wild versus Domestic

 

How do we know whether the animals, plants, etc. are wild or domestic? Can anything be domesticated by humans? Can animals domesticate themselves? Are there natural breeds?

NOT ALL living things can be domesticated, though. This is because of several factors involving economic investments, reproduction cycles (usually based on seasons, though this can be artificially manipulated), and probably a few other things. Some animals born in captivity learn to be tamed, but they are still genetically wild. People have also used captive breeding to remove endangered species off the list, although I personally believe that people need to have a valid reason for doing so, as I think there needs to be a balance, as George Carlin once said in his speech. For example, we need honeybees to continue eating honey. If they disappeared, would we be able to find other means of making it?

It is amazing how our ancestors figured out a way to do this, especially considering that they had no knowledge of science such as genetics and biology. They simply captured them, gave them plenty of food, and did not let them go. It took a very, very long time. And yes, you can undomesticate an animal, too. Just let it run around loose, and natural selection will commandeer once more. They are called feral animals. Because this happened over thirty-five thousand years ago, there exists very little information on the exact domestication process. People have tried to replicate it using foxes, raccoons, possums, and other things, though. It makes me believe that humans are the only species to have direct influence over other species. I do not know of any other species that have tried to breed us, or anything like that, except our own. Domestication falls into three main categories:

  • Companionship
  • farm food, and
  • working or draft animals, like beasts of burden.

Many domesticated animals live in herds, have plant-based diets, reproduce and mature quickly, and adapt easily. And, most importantly, they are not feared by humans. Another aspect of breeding is establishing a pedigree or well-known ancestral lineage that a family tree can be created. These animals are called purebreds and often have a lot of economic value because of their rarity. But this also comes with other problems. They are more prone to getting recessive genes because their parents have the same genetic makeup. So, they might end up having health issues that may prevent them from living a healthy life. Thanks to modern science, though, it is possible to have healthier purebreds, but there’s nothing like having a healthy mixed breed, even if they have no economic value. Hunting for ivory has been banned because people often did it for selfish reasons that often led the species very close to extinction.

I will tell you what accounts for all this. One example comes from Tom Swift in Captivity, by Victor Appleton, in which he talks about finding giants.

These folks originally belonged to a race of people noted for their great size. Then they must have lived under favourable conditions, had plenty of flesh and bone-forming food, and after several generations they gradually grew larger. You know that by feeding the right kind of food to animals you can make them bigger, while if they get the wrong kind they are runts, or dwarfs.

So, now we’re a little closer to understanding what goes into the making of these traits. Some of them can also result from a mutation that turned out to be more favourable than those without the mutation, so the ones without it simply died out, while the ones with it continued to survive. Others learnt to adapt using genetic predisposition, and they eventually allowed their offspring to be loaded with the necessary genetic instructions to live in that environment. Check out this article to learn more about advantageous mutations. One example of this is how we lost our tails. Long ago, there was a mutation that resulted in having a shorter tail, so those with the longer ones kept being eaten by predators because they couldn’t hide as easily. Those with the shorter tails continued to survive, so having a shorter tail became the new norm until the next mutation for having no tail came along.

 

Migration (emigration and immigration)

 

We are not quite certain exactly where humans originated, but research conducted by anthropologists suggests that our species originated in Africa. This makes sense, because Africa is known for having the best conditions for many animals to thrive and live prosperously. Eventually, though, some of them found ways to relocate once they could find a means of getting across large bodies of water, such as by swimming, flying, or building something that would carry them afar. Some of these locations required them to biologically adjust to the new environment, such as getting used to colder weather or having less access to food. This may have resulted in their offspring in developing a shorter stature and having a paler complexion, or they may have grown more hair to allow them to retain more warmth. As their parents died out, their offspring were able to start new populations of their own, and they eventually developed their own traditions, customs, rituals, and a common language. Some of these groups were very exclusive and did not allow newcomers to join them unless they could demonstrate that they were worthy of it. Theoretically, it is possible that if you took a hundred people who knew nothing of language, and in a few generations, they would be able to establish a unique method of communication.

Also, if the Europeans had the technology to explore the new world in which Ntive Americans had been living for long periods of time, including the Vikings, then why didn’t they explore outside their continent and discover Europe first? What would’ve happened if Christopher Columbus never found America? That would mean that in order for people to be inhabiting North America, the original people would’ve had to find means of crossing the ocean to get there.

A few other things to note: one of the first things we see is someone’s skin colour or complexion. We know that sun exposure, or lack thereof, can contribute to the amount of melanin being produced. Since Africa is almost always abundant with sunlight, most of its inhabitants were likely to have darker skin complexions than those who were in Europe. But remember that skin colour isn’t everything. There can be black albinos, too. So, remember how food can contribute to our development? Well, almost each culture has its own diet and cuisine. Many people who were used to hunting and gathering primarily ate meat from animals they have killed, either raw or cooked, while those who didn’t simply ate more plant-based foods. We are omnivorous, after all.

So, if all of humanity originated in Africa, then why does racism exist? Humans, unlike other animals, are a group species. We like to make cliques and form bonds with those we have in common with, and yet we also have a need to defend our territory against certain people with different characteristics, even if we are of the same species. Animals often use visual, auditory, or olfactory signals to mark their space, while others simply threaten them with aggression. We, as humans, build fences and walls to not only border our territory, but also to protect us from the elements. To learn more about territoriality, check out this blog post.

There’s no doubt that humans are primarily selfish. We have learned to look down upon those who are different from us by dehumanising them… i.e. using the pronouns it, its, and itself. We treat them as objects and own them as personal properties, making them do the dirty work for us without getting anything in return. In one example, when Louis Sachar talks about monsters in There’s a Boy in the Girls Bathroom, he says that a monster is simply a creation of one who believes that they are evil, but it almost has nothing to do with how they look, since the way a hideous-looking creature could actually be a favourable asset within that species, and we are just not used to seeing that. So, it’s easy to disregard them as being less human if we think of them as being ugly. If you don’t have any emotional involvement with them, then it won’t hurt if you have to kill them.

One general attitude that many people of European descent had was that they felt like black people, especially black men, have ruled the world for centuries, so when white people evolved, they quickly took over and set things up for themselves. The problem is that many of them want to keep it that way, rather than share the power, like any other human would. So, in some cases, I think they are being hypocritical.

But here’s another question. If all of humanity came from Africa, then how many generations would’ve had to pass in order for you to be considered native or aboriginal of a particular region? All I can say is that I am a native of Earth. But it just means that your species originated there, after hundreds of years. It is possible that your parents may have been of a different race, so some people are now using the term white-passing to indicate those who may be multi-racial but may have a skin colour that would resemble that of a white person.

So, if I follow the logic that I have two parents, four grandparents, eight great grandparents, and so on, and a generation is twenty-five years, and after thirty-seven generations, or nine hundred twenty-five years, I would have a family tree with over a hundred thirty billion people. How is that possible? The answer is a really complicated one, but feel free to check it out on Quora.

 

Fighting Prejudice

 

Now that we have a better understanding of the science behind all this, I wonder how all of that got engrained into our system, and the things that led up to and ended slavery.

We know that the United |States of America was founded by slave owners, who were rich, white, and male. They had a means of conquering Britain and winning the war. They also decided that they would fix the electoral college to make it so that only the rich and powerful would have direct influence over an election, while those in lower positions, or who were black, female, etc., were oppressed.

At the time, our country was just made up of thirteen states that were originally colonized. But then we started buying and stealing lands to add to our territory to expand westward and southward. Some of these territories came from Mexico, while others came from France, and others were stolen from Native American tribes. Some of those people were subject to slavery, and black people weren’t the only ones. Before the industrial revolution, many children were forced to work long hours without being given breaks. Then child labour laws were introduced.

The Civil War began when the South, which was already made up of purchased and stolen property, wanted more people to work, but they didn’t want to pay them to do it. This meant saving more money, paying more on taxes, and buying more slaves and more land. This kept on going while the north continued to refuse them the right to secede from the United States, and the war was on. For the next four years, both sides tried to outdo one another, but fortunately for us, the Union, we won, thanks to help from President Abraham Lincoln and the Gettysburg Address.

Congress decided to exclude all the losing states from the amendment ratifying process, which made slavery illegal. A lot of people in the south were very unhappy about that, and many of them held grudges that went beyond belief. It is perhaps why they are seen as more traditional and conservative compared to more liberal and progressive states.

Some people just didn’t want to give up and let go of the fact that we were all equal, so they enacted some Jim Crow laws, which allowed states to racially segregate people simply based on how they looked. It was around that time that the Black National Anthem was written… Lift Every Voice and Sing. People have tried to justify racial segregation in many different ways, while others found it completely illogical, especially kids. Judy Blume once talked about it in Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself. You might have also noticed that the segregation laws were being enforced more in the southern states than in the northern ones.

Then, around the 1950s and 1960s, people started to rebel. One of these was the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Another was made up of the Little Rock Nine. Protests continued to rise until Martin Luther King JR. delivered his I have a Dream speech in August of 1963 at the Lincoln Memorial, just two years before the actual one hundredth anniversary of winning the civil war. Then the Supreme Court released an opinion, which said that any law in the U.S. that established racial segregation in public schools were unconstitutional, even if said segregated schools were equal in quality. What was interesting was that the Supreme Court had initially ruled in favour of segregation almost a hundred years before, saying that they were separate, but equal. I believe this was mainly due in part to the financial risk and liabilities black people would impose on property owned by white people, since they were generally impoverished and were not able to get work except doing odd jobs and menial labour.

Ultimately, the Civil Rights Act was passed and signed into law in 1964, but desegregation was slow. But now, nearly forty-five years later, we are still seeing effects of racial injustice and police brutality. But why?

One of the things I plan to talk about in a future post is the emergence of recreational drugs, and which groups gained reputation for doing so, as well as talking about how some states are legalising the use of Marijuana, or decriminalising hard drugs like Meth. Sufficient to say here that because of how extremely marginalised black people are in getting jobs, many of them were seen as getting work under the table or off the books, i.e. doing illegal jobs, and drug dealing is one of them. So, the general consensus is that if you see one black person doing it, then you assume that ALL black people do it, too. That is not the case, and that should never be the case. Another stereotype about black people that has risen is that they are always short-tempered, always wanting to pick fights, and that they are always aggressive. But couldn’t we say the same thing about white people? While the question of whether these personality traits are associated with race is up for debate, I do know that genetics and environmental factors can wire us in different ways. So, in the end, any human can possess these traits, no matter what race they are.

 

A few more things to point out

 

In the Harry Potter books, very similar things happen, as the series closely mirrors a society complete with social, political, legal, economic, educational, genealogical, sports, and transportation-related issues. One of the things I found fascinating was how people sometimes lied about their heritage to gain better status, build their reputation, etc. What was also interesting was how the energy to do magic could be mutated i.e. a witchard who is Muggle-born, or it could be inherited by someone who already has it. If one parent has the gene, but the other doesn’t, that person is said to be half-blooded. If both parents have the gene, and their parent before that had the gene as well, with no trace as to where it had started, then that person would be considered pure-blooded.

A derogatory term that was used to target Muggle-born people was mudblood, which, translated into other languages, means dirty or filthy blood. It meant that the person with the magic was an imposter to the magical world because none of their parents or relatives could do magic, so those who came from magical families felt superior to them.

On the other end, someone who came from a half-blood or pure-blood family, but who never got the gene to do magic, was called a Squib, so they would also be ridiculed for not being able to compete with them.

And finally, the role house elves played in the series mirrored that to how slaves were often treated. Some common linguistic patterns included talking to oneself in the third person, addressing the person with an honourable title at the end of almost every sentence, and of course, speaking in broken English. In the Spanish translation, the elves seem to speak grammatically correct. I’ve also seen these dialects printed in older books such as those written by Horatio Alger JR. and Victor Appleton.

 

So, What’s Next?

 

I hope now that we have a better understanding of how racism has evolved in this country, and more importantly, how we can fight back against it and support each other when disaster strikes. Because, no matter what race, ethnicity, or nationality you are, you are still human, still susceptible to the same virus that is causing this pandemic, but you are still capable of having the same emotions as everyone else.

 

Let us make sure George Floyd’s death was not in vain!

Lots More Information

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4HyKlFUMBiA

https://www.quora.com/Is-there-a-scientific-explanation-that-justifies-why-the-police-are-targeting-black-men

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=krfcq5pF8u8&feature=youtu.be&fbclid=IwAR0yuZWgqO0X-7TslCFbCSRr-VxT65bfkqNdi48Hlx_f4p1KBjwb_7dD1eY

https://www.redandblack.com/culture/documentary-review-and-summary-13th-by-ava-duvernay/article_e8597024-addf-11ea-980e-07001be9e7eb.html?fbclid=IwAR31pIAdvShP_MANLRBvYECwH43NYDl884OAvMGcR3UliMvA3kq7V2ATafo

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/08/19/magazine/history-slavery-smithsonian.html?mtrref=www.google.com&gwh=20A9301787D9553EE2FBE03B9EA5DE75&gwt=pay&assetType=REGIWALL

https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2014/05/14/31dauphine.h33.html

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/a-civil-rights-expert-explains-the-social-science-of-police-racism/

Dear Prospective VR Counsellor

Thank you for choosing to work with me on starting my new endeavour as a potential business entrepreneur. There are some things I would like to share with you, so that we can all be on the same page. I apologise in advance for the length of this letter, but I think it is well worth the read. I also apologise for the number of links in this letter, but I think these are great resources I found for what I would like to do moving forward. I realise that most of this will be going into political territory, and there’s no doubt that the workplace mandates political neutrality, but I would at least like to tell you my story and the reasons things turned out the way they did. Also, if you do not have experience working with people from marginalised communities or other backgrounds, or if you don’t have the knowledge and expertise for developing a business plan for a mission-oriented individual, then I ask that my case be transferred to someone who is more knowledgeable on these topics. Alternatively, you can go here to learn more.

I decided to reopen my case following a long series of unfortunate events. Given that I closed my case with the Commission for the Blind in early 2017, I thought I could find a different provider and start from scratch. As I soon found out, though, a case must be opened with the commission if you are legally blind because they use specialised funding to specifically address the blindness population that is generally not available to the regular voc rehab agencies. They offered to set up a joint case to address my other disabilities, though. It seemed absurd that they considered blind people to be completely separate rather than putting us on a spectrum along with the other folx with disabilities (mental health included). I could’ve also requested to work with a certified psychiatric rehabilitation counsellor during the time I was in therapy for the experience I had in 2016.

I am also submitting a court order with my new legal name, and with your permission, I would like to remove old and outdated information from your records.

 

I already had some work experience since 2010. Out of the belief that I needed more independence training, I was asked to attend a ten-month programme in Vancouver to further explore my options and attend college at the counsellor’s request in 2012–this after I discovered what I really wanted to do and how I could share my talents with the world. I enjoyed the programme and made lots of new discoveries. Then I found out that it was very difficult for me to implement my system when I was living with people who either didn’t know how to be independent or who were sighted. I was also taught independent living skills with the assumption that I could still hear with my hearing aids. They tried to accommodate my hearing loss, but since they were primarily blindness-oriented, it was pretty difficult. That’s why I’m glad I later learned about Helen Keller National Centre.
Subsequently, I found my passion for piano tuning, but I was advised to wait to determine whether my hearing loss was going to worsen because as it was at the time, I did pretty well, but there was no guarantee that it would continue to remain the same, which was why I became obsessed in genetic engineering and stem cell research, as I didn’t like the idea of having mechanical devices implanted in my head.

I did not know that there was something lurking in a dark corner and waiting to jump out at me when I had made the turn. In November of 2012, I attempted to apply for Financial Aid, but I was informed that, because I was coercively assigned male at birth (CAMAB), I had to register for the Selective Service in case there was ever a draft. I did not consider myself to be transgender just yet until a few weeks after I completed the programme in June. In fact, at the end of the programme, one of my favourite staff members bade me farewell, but when they addressed me using gendered terms, I automatically flinched without even thinking about it, and they must’ve seen it, for they immediately corrected themselves and resorted to using gender-neutral terms. This was before I fully realised that I was transgender. To this day, I am still amazed at how I had reacted without even thinking about it, and yet the memory is still very clear in my mind.

I started objecting to this whole Selective Service thing from day 1, though, and to this day I continue to object. I was told numerous times that nobody would be able to draft me because of my disabilities even if I identified as male, but unfortunately, you still must register to get those benefits. I found this out when my mother tried to get my brother financial aid, as well. There are also repercussions for knowingly lying about your gender. Given that this is an old issue, I could not get the media and legal organisations interested in pursuing this issue further. It is too bad that nobody wants to address these issues given that a lot of transgender and nonbinary people are making headlines today. I should not have to register if I did not identify as male unless they Required everybody to sign up, regardless of biological sex or gender identity, the way they do with jury duty. In fact, the supreme court delivered an opinion on 15 June 2020, stating that LGBTQIA+ employees should be protected at the federal level from discrimination. I would rather have this policy abolished altogether, though.

I started a petition to address these issues, though given the political climate, I doubt anything will come of it, so this is where the folks from Basic Rights Oregon, who are advocating for me, come in. I recently graduated from a leadership development programme called Catalyst, because my hope was to start a project to address these issues. I have vowed to remain civilly disobedient and boycotting Financial Aid, and I entreat anyone who identifies as transgender, gender nonbinary, or gender-nonconforming or whatever, to do this as well if they believe that the 103-year-old policy is giving cisgender males preferential treatment, and everybody else unfair and unequal access to education. Now, I am not opposed to going to college. I have nothing against that whatsoever. I would gladly go back if it were not for the whole Selective Service issue. And there are other ways to get stipends scholarships or grants depending on what the goals are, and how they can be achieved. There are funding sources for marginalised folks and underserved populations. There is also the option of studying in another country, as well. For that, I would suggest checking out Mobility International USA. They have resources for joining the Job or Peace Corps. Most of them require college degrees, but a few of them might let you join with lived experience and references. In fact, I was asked how I was going to compete in the market and convince people to choose me over someone who has years of academic background and training to specialise in a specific field. They told me that having lots of lived experience and being self-taught may not be enough to be fully competitive. Still, if my target audience is primarily serving underserved groups, they may be more open to folx who don’t have that kind of background as long as you are deemed competent. Besides, my vocational interests are more progressive than what most voc rehab databases have at their disposals, so that might probably account for something.
There are many ways people can get professional experience: One way is through a work experience, which bridges the gap between volunteering and being an intern. The client is paid wages through a temp agency that contracts with VR, so there is no cost to the employer. Then, if there is a mutual agreement between both parties, the client is onboarded and hired as an actual employee, but the employer gets reimbursed with On-the-Job Training funding, which comes from the federal government. These options are very carefully coordinated by job development and business relations experts. They would help clients in ways that the employer might not be able to help them alone. Then of course, there are apprenticeship and fellowship opportunities, but those options are more long-term and would focus more on the academic aspect of skill refinement.
The thing is that I had done so much volunteering throughout most of my life for the past eight years, but I have never been able to get past being a volunteer and actually work for the companies that I was volunteering for. So, I am basically ready for the next level of responsibility because say, there’s only so much work you can do as a volunteer.
And finally, you can get course certifications that are relatively cheap, usually in between the $100-$1500 range, and these certificates can open the door to new possibilities, such as becoming a proofreader or being a piano technician.

You can take my word for it that I am smart and intelligent, but evidently that is not enough for many things in any developed country. Fortunately, there are still lots of ways to be successful without ever going to college. Also, here are some freelance jobs requiring no degree or experience. People say that you need a job, but you cannot get a job without experience, which sort of sounds backwards, since a job is supposed to help you build that experience.

I’ve been trying to make it as an aspiring or emerging author (with five manuscripts under my belt and counting–through self and traditional publishing), freelance writer, blogger, ceramic artist, baker, musician (DJ and sound tech), authorised dealer, or even a breeder.

As I learnt throughout most of my life, though, a lot of people stressed the importance of getting employment. That means working for someone else instead of suggesting that you could theoretically take employment into your own hands and work for yourself, on your terms. When I asked around, I learnt that many voc rehab places view entrepreneurship as a dirty word because it’s often a waste of government money to support you on something that is likely to not get off the ground, and that it doesn’t guarantee verification that you were working. This is because starting and running a business can be extremely debilitating, and funds can be misused or abused at any time. Similarly, it seemed to me that voc rehab agencies only supported knowledge and intelligence-based careers rather than those that involved crafting or arts. You hardly hear about blind performing artists going to Hollywood because they often say that it is a burden or liability to support all their accommodations. Recently, the Helen Keller National Centre posted an article about the first DeafBlind actor being featured in a film. They also told me that a lot of blind people, of which 70 percent are unemployed, do not have the needed capital or creditworthiness to start their business. That’s why I took out a secured credit card back in 2017, so that I could start building my credit as soon as possible. I do not know if this unemployment rate is higher, lower, or the same for blind people with intersecting characteristics, either in the United States or anywhere else. But there are grants you can apply for, like this one, this one, and this one. Once a year, OSU hosts a Funding Blitz webinar to teach you how you can increase your chances of getting the funding you need for whatever purpose you have in mind. They even have a section that focuses on funding for women, minority, and underserved entrepreneurs. As someone from Basic Rights Oregon put it, if there’s no seat at the table, then you build your own table and chair. This is especially true for creative people. The Holland Codes certainly didn’t lie when it told me that I was investigative, artistic, and conventional. So, work with an Individual Development Account specialist to start saving up for your business and get matching funds within a year.

It also seems from what I’ve observed that people wanted you to work at a job site instead of suggesting that you could work from home, as well, but there’s nothing wrong with that. With the whole COVID19 outbreak, it is pretty much the only option right now, anyway. Maybe it is because they wanted you to build good mobility and punctuality skills, build experience with writing a resume, wearing good clothes to an interview, etc., all or most of which would otherwise be lost or remain undeveloped if working at home or running a business. You still have to look professional when conducting video informational interviews and other things. By the way, since I cannot afford to buy clothes, I was referred by Goodwill Job Connections to visit Dress for Success, which I’ve found to be very inclusive. Plus, getting a job has the lowest risk and highest reward, whereas entrepreneurship requires you to put in a lot of risk and hope for a high return. That’s why feasibility studies exist. Apart from that, many voc rehab agencies won’t support a business that is going to be perceived as a hobby, which is why a lot of clients are almost always told that their goals are not realistic. They want something that can be reasonably called a career… something you can make a reasonable living off of.

I was once asked if I would be opposed to working for someone, and I said that I would not, as long as the business met my values, particularly when it came to serving queer trans-people of colour with disabilities. I am open to working with someone who is willing to support and accommodate me with all my access needs and other characteristics. I am good at writing and editing, speaking English and Spanish fluently (I am a better writer in English), crowdsourcing and building connections, organising information, and writing about technical topics based on research. I have also been in a cohort as of 2013 that explores reproductive medicine, and I have been curious about how to advance my understanding of this to help with my own research as a transgender person. I also love to teach one-on-one about various topics, like Braille and music, amateur radio, or teaching English or Spanish. I could be a technology instructor, Braille proofreader, translator or interpreter, specifically focusing on gender affirmation and inclusion that most blind people ignore. I could also work in a music store or somewhere in the amusement ride industry because I have always loved riding various thrill-seeking attractions. And I am also willing to try working as a caregiver or a preteen babysitter if I can find resources on how that can be done for someone who is completely blind and severely hard-of-hearing.

One of my teachers of the Visually Impaired got me signed up with LegalShield. They look like a typical multi-level marketing company or pyramid scheme, and they are often notorious for selling low-quality products or illegitimate services. However, I found their services to be very satisfactory, and I have been able to resolve legal disputes at the administrative level, so I make it noticeably clear when selling memberships how to use those services. Also, many blind people are often sold on the idea that they should treat these opportunities as being their only source of income instead of adding to what they are already doing. This is because MLM opportunities in general are being offered as the one-size fits all solution for a chronically underemployed community. In most cases, it is just a form of earning side income.

When I told people about my talents and interests, a few of them offered to donate their used equipment if they had no further use for it. I am thinking of asking churches and other organisations about building my pro audio or ceramics gear based on donations or finding some in a pawn shop. This after I have taken some audio fundamental and music composition courses online, and a ceramics class at the local cultural arts centre last year. I am also a member of the Able Artist Foundation, CommTech USA, and a few other places.

Another thing I’ve noticed about job-seeking was that not only did a lot of people emphasise how important it was to get a job, but that you should pursue mainstream jobs as well, rather than suggesting that you could technically get a job pertaining to the minority of which you belong. I guess it all depends on your level of comfort. Somehow, this might seem like we are reinforcing the stereotype that blind people can only get blindness-related jobs and stuff, but what about when someone has intersecting characteristics that also marginalises them as well? How many employers are ready to hire someone who is totally blind, severely hard-of-hearing, a person of colour, legally non-binary, comes from an impoverished family, and with no college degree? And at the same time, what if they have mental health issues like anxiety, panic disorder, and PTSD? By the way, it is not being transgender or nonbinary that is the barrier. It is the way people are being treated for their perceived gender expression contrary to how they identify that is the barrier. So, some people may choose to avoid these barriers altogether. It doesn’t mean that they are cowards, but rather, they are building their own path and finding a way to cross those barriers by cutting right through it.
Also, the sad truth is that no matter how much we enforce the ADA and Rehabilitation acts, which is already difficult to do because of lack of evidence, people can, and will, discriminate just because we are blind. I’ve heard people with other disabilities discriminating against blind people, which sounds ironic because you would expect them to be more sympathetic towards us, but internalised ableism can happen at any time.

It is not about the leadership, It is about the way our country views visual impairments, and other disabilities. We are considered Third World citizens, and anything that they have to do out-of-the-way to accommodate us is absolutely out of the question. If they can do it with reasonably low cost, limited resources, and people, it will probably get done. If they have to put any major funding behind it, or hire people to write code, it is not happening.

It would probably take a massive widespread change for them to start caring about us, like a respiratory virus that can cause irreversable blindness or hearing loss. So, in some cases, a pandemic can change things for the better that we may not have otherwise done before.
Some blind people have also started leveraging this new victory in favour of LGBTQIA+ people having equal employment opportunities without realising that blind people, including those with multiple disabilities, are in a much different plane than those in the LGBTQIA+ community, at least in a fundamental way. Changing your sex, gender, or sexual orientation should have no effect on how well you do your work. with disability, this argument equal ability falls apart because you need reasonable accommodations to be made so that you can do the work as well as anyone else.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I know there are several blind and DeafBlind people out there with really great jobs or businesses, have had access to great education, etc, but those people probably had a great support system comprised of family members, relatives, and various entities that helped them navigate the able-bodied world. The reality is that most of us lack this type of support, though I am sure that we can find it if we find people who really believe in what we have to offer the world.

In 2016, I came out to my former VR counsellor, and they agreed to change my name, although they could not change my gender yet. Some of the staff, especially those from the older generation, continued misgendering me, though. Then I got sick, unfortunately, following a trip to Arizona because of the excessive heat, and I spent almost a year and a half recovering from the aftermath. I could not commit to VR anymore, so I had to close my case in 2017 so I could work on getting better. At the same time, I got into a major family emergency that lasted a long time. So, I’ve gotten used to this whole physical distancing thing, because I had already lived through it once.

There is barely any support in Oregon for folks who are deaf-blind. There is a lot of support if you have one disability or the other, but not both. Anyway, there has been several attempts to implement a support service provider system to assist deaf-blind individuals like they already have over in Seattle and provide case management, but all efforts have been in vain. I had to miss out on various recreational and leisurely activities because I could not get the support needed like I could when I was younger. My mother usually provided this support, but she always needed to ensure that my older brother (who has a significant developmental disability in addition to his blindness and hearing loss) was being looked after first. As I got older, I found that my mother did not have time for me anymore because of the countless number of errands she had to run every time the caregiver came, which is currently once or twice a week. Update: we are expected to have a caregiver come five days a week, which should hopefully be more than enough. Soon, we may talk about hiring an awake overnight provider so that my brother will not make messes in the kitchen every night. A professional behaviour consultant will probably help us with that once he’s been seen by a Housecall Provider doctor to make sure there are no underlying health conditions that could be contributing to his behaviours. I relaunched my GoFundMe campaign to try to get him more support from HKNC, and you can find that here.

I am also afraid of having anything to do with my life as a transgender person compromised because my mother does not know anything about it, as she and other family members are not supportive and accepting. Before you read on, I am going to be straight up blunt. I’m not going to give out any names unless it were in the best interest of the public good, but it seemed like there were two kinds of people who worked with disabled individuals: those who are genuinely caring, and those who were flat-out controlling and infantilising. These latter individuals are what I have clashes and misunderstandings with. An author actually talked about it in his book, White Coat, White Cane: The Extraordinary Odyssey of a Blind Physician, by David Hartman. I can understand that they only wanted me to thrive, so they did it in ways that were probably not favourable for me. These are the individuals who manipulated or talked folks into doing things they probably were not ready for. They most likely put them in one of their pigeonholes and made it hard for them to get out of. Young and new adults might as well be coerced into going to college, but maybe it is because they also feed on people’s fears and ignorance about what their rights are.

I actually had to file a grievance against someone for releasing information about me and unprofessionally expressing a negative opinion behind my back to my mother, whom I trusted, but since it was hearsay, I was not a witness to the incident and therefore wasn’t able to escalate the issue further.

All of this has cost me financially, and as a result, I am currently battling a decision that was made by Social Security about two years ago. I invite you to read my brief, which is in the previous post. After you read it, I think you will understand where I am coming from, and why I will ultimately need your support. Sufficient to say here that it involves housing issues, and I am looking into applying for housing grants, like this and this, to settle the debt. Some of these services ask you to pay for them, though. I was able to get a church to pay one month worth of rent.

One of the folx from BRO told me about a programme called PASS (Plan to Achieve Self-support), but I did not know that there was a catch to it. It will only work if I were getting income that would significantly reduce my SSI, and if I didn’t have an ABLE account. The PASS Cadre then referred me to another programme called Ticket to Work. I would argue that getting grants, if I qualified for them, would count as income, so a PASS would therefore be valid. I said before that churches and organisations may be able to donate equipment, but I think some of them may also provide financial assistance, as well. At least, that was one of my friends’ suggestions, but I could not get anywhere with that.

Also, when someone recommended that I apply for Section Eight Housing, which is run by Housing Urban Development, I objected to the way they collected and used certain demographic information. I discovered that not only do they have a long waiting list, but they also require you to only select male or female on the application. I asked myself, What business is it of theirs to know what sex or gender I am? Furthermore, when I got my court order, birth certificate, and ID that all declare that I am legally non-binary, there was going to be a legal mismatch between the two systems. So, I decided to boycott Section Eight as well. I heard that Oregon is working to provide state-funded inclusive housing, but I do not know much about that. The supreme court should’ve ruled in favour of adding gender nonbinary options at the same time they ruled in favour of same-sex marriage. Hopefully, with this new landmark ruling, we’ll be getting closer to achieving that goal.

Anyhow, I think it is time for me to close out this letter, and I hope now you know where I’m coming from, and how we can work together so I can start over anew and get the life I deserve to live, not based on what someone thinks my life should be. If I return to VR, I would like to work on my terms instead of theirs.

I lost nearly four years of what could have been an enjoyable experience, but I was not able to get relief during the time that I was suffering. I tried alleging mental and emotional distress, negligence, loss of enjoyment of life, and possibly a few other things against the organisation that was responsible for the trip to Arizona, but according to my attorney, I didn’t have enough evidence to file a claim. Somebody also told me that given how small that organisation was, they likely would not have money to settle the judgement, although I could have filed a wage garnish as an alternative. Given all the things I have gone through, I think I and my family should be set for life.

Please take some time to go over the information, and feel free to ask me any questions.

Respectfully yours,

Heavenly Harmony

She/they

To Sue or Not to Sue?

Plan to Sue Social Security for an Alleged Overpayment

 
 

Heavenly Harmony V. Social Security Administration, Andrew Saul, Commissioner

Room 617, Altmeyer Building

6401 Security Boulevard

Baltimore, MD 21235-6401

Social Security Administration Office of General Counsel – Seattle, WA701 Fifth Avenue Suite 2900, M/S 901Seattle, WA 98104

(206) 615-2684

Oregon District Court – Portland, OR

Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse

1000 Southwest Third Avenue

Portland, OR 97204-2802

503-326-8008

Processing fee is $400. May be able to grant waiver, which will be deducted from benefits if awarded, along with attorney fees if the Social Security Administration authorises it.

 

I am submitting this brief, which contains some elements used in my April 12th, 2019 hearing at the Office of Hearings Operations (OHO), as well as supplemental testimony submitted to the appeals council in November 2019. I will address any discrepancies in the ALJ’s decision, and why the council’s denial to review the case was erroneous. The chief officer for the council mentioned in their letter that the judge’s decision can only be overturned by special rules, especially if a civil action is not filed within 60 days. My concern is that the federal court judge will not examine any new evidence past the date of the hearing transcript. Under federal law, one cannot sue the Social Security Administration directly. Therefore, the commissioner named above will be known as the defendant in the case.

Also, I am concerned that, due to lack of communication within a reasonable timeframe, plus not being well trained on working with blind individuals, my attorney, who was referred to by my LegalShield provider lawfirm, has not done an effective job at representing my case, and I ended up filing a complaint with the Oregon State Bar. As of March of 2020, he called my excuse of ‘poor communication’ ‘completely subjective and utterly preposterous.’ He commended me for being an outstanding witness in my hearing compared to other witnesses he has represented, though.


Here is how a civil action against SSA is initiated: An initial brief must be sent to open a case, then the summons must be served to the commissioner through the office of general council. Upon acknowledgement of the summons, an opening brief is sent by the plaintiff, followed by a response brief from the opposition. Finally, the plaintiff will have one chance to reply to the response before the judge decides. The process generally takes about twelve to eighteen months to complete.

 

In most of 2015 through 2016, I have been consistent in keeping up with my payments to my mother, who is the head of the household and who only speaks Spanish, for rent, but things started going downhill after I got back from a trip in July of 2016. I live in a household with one other disabled person, who is my brother, and a single mother, who has been divorced since 2005.

The reason I stopped paying my mother $200 for rent beginning in August 2016 was because I paid for air fare to an event that took place a few months later, which then turned into months of severe medical hardship. I will not go into detail here, as there are plenty of exhibits and posts covering the matter. Suffice it to say that there were two stages of why I have not been able to keep up with my payments during the time. The first was due to unexpected medical and transportation expenses, and later, it was due to a misunderstanding. However, in February 2017, I managed to pay my mother two hundred dollars for rent. This may have to be calculated when I present the new evidence, assuming that I can still submit it. Basically, my mother was concerned for my health and did not require me to pay her until I felt better, and I have paid off my medical bills. At the same time, she was demanding that I pay her every month. She was basically trying to milk an emaciated cow.

 

The administrative law judge begins the letter with, ‘You will not have the right to a federal court review.’ Despite this, though, I do not think that anyone at the administrative level has the power to say what your rights are. It may have been an error on the judge’s part for concluding that a federal district court judge might also conclude that the evidence was consistent for why the case was denied at the previous three stages of the appeals process that they simply followed all laws, rules and regulations. He probably did not want me to spend $400 and have my case dismissed without prejudice. Therefore, it is extremely important that we submit a motion to allow new evidence to be considered. This may include a subpoena to be delivered to my mother in person. It must call for her to either testify at an oral argument hearing or submit copies of the new evidence directly since she is not willing to do it on her own. Otherwise, I can deliver the evidence myself.

 

On page three of the judge’s decision, as well as in the original notice dated 26 April, the Social Security Administration indicated that they had been counting the overpayment since November 2016 based on information they collected from my mother in a routine eligibility case review. But, in another exhibit, my mother signed a sworn statement, which reads in part, I hereby certify that Deadname used to pay $200 a month. In August 2016, however, Deadname stopped paying. This was based on a phone conversation she had with an SSA caseworker in early April of 2018. In the recording or transcript, my attorney is heard asking me, ‘Do you agree with your mother’s sworn statement?’ My response to that question was yes. However, in light of having someone else look at the case, I strongly disagree with this statement now. In response to my complaint, my attorney showed great dislike towards the supposed non-lawyer for critiquing his work and telling me what I should do legally and has asked the bar to determine the identity of this non-lawyer to inform them about the bars against practising law without a valid licence. As a consumer, I have every right to seek advice from whomever I want, and my friends are entitled to think whatever they want, but unless they are attorneys, they should always say, That doesn’t sound right. You might want to bring this up with an attorney.

Also, I cannot find any explanation for why the Social Security Administration did not count August, September, or October as being overpaid since both notices clearly said November 2016, contrary to the sworn statements.

 

An SSA caseworker called me on Friday, 17 February 2017 for a routine case review, and, during that call, I told him that I wanted to get a secured credit card, and I asked him if that was going to be an issue for them since the card would be giving me more money. The caseworker reassured me and said something to the effect of, ‘Credit cards are things you have to pay for, so we don’t really need to know about them.’ Based on that statement, I assumed that I did not need to pay my mother since I was then being obligated to pay my credit cards every month.

Note: prior to being notified on 26 April 2018 of the overpayment, no one from Social Security told me outright (either in phone or in writing) that I still had rental obligations, so my mother’s telling me to pay her could be regarded as Hearsay. It is my understanding that some government entities have a standard which articulates that there may be physical, mental, educational, linguistic, or other barriers for not knowing about a code of federal regulation, public law, etc., although one could reasonably argue that ignorance was no excuse. Still, if I had been living on my own, and if I were struggling to pay my rent because of all the medical stuff I was going through, I could have gotten assistance to ensure that I would continue to have a roof over my head. The problem is that I was not able to get this type of assistance because I do not have a formal lease with my mother. Still, I should have had every right to borrow money from her. In fact, this article from Social Security explains that a loan can take on the form of cash, food, or shelter. This is only true if I agree to pay it off at a later date, which I plan to do.
Instead, she told them that she was not charging me rent, but later, she is still demanding that I pay her when I cannot. Bottom line is that my mother had forgiven me to pay rent when she should have loaned that money during the time that I was paying all those bills.

 

I was able to close almost all my debt in early 2018, so, beginning in April, I withdrew two hundred dollars in cash, which came from a credit account, and I handed it to my mother. I was initially going to pay her three hundred dollars a month, as I had said on my 5 March 2018 interview with Social Security, but my mother told me that I did not have to pay her that much. I thought I could pay her back for the time I could not pay her by adding $100 to the $200, but I never ended up paying her the extra amount. I also paid my mother in May of 2018.

 

When I learned that my benefits were being threatened, I doubled my efforts to find ways to save money, get grants, etc. I even set up a mutual funds account with Edward Jones so I would have something to fall back on just in case. At the rate I was going, though, I could only deposit around twenty-five to fifty dollars a month at a time. My mutual funds officially opened in October. Then, as the evidence has shown, I called Money Management International, which is a debt management programme certified by the National FOUNDATION FOR Credit Counselling in July of 2018, and I asked whether I should consider filing bankruptcy, but the counsellor suggested that I begin a debt management plan instead. So, as of December 2019, I have successfully completed that plan and no longer have any debt obligations. As part of the agreement, all my accounts had to be closed, but they were able to lower the minimum payment as well, and it also came at a high price (which you’ll see more of below). I wouldn’t have been able to do this, save for some things I’ve sold in some garage sales last year, combined with the money I’ve saved in my mutual funds, and things I have pawned, I was able to pay off a large amount of debt in a short amount of time.

 

According to the judge’s order, a claimant is eligible to receive SSI, pursuant to 20 CFR. 116.1100, if access to income or other resources are limited. Income is counted on a per-month basis. The more income one has, the less one’s benefits will be. Pursuant to 20 CFR. 416.232, if an individual’s countable income and or resources do not exceed a certain limit, they will have no effect on the individual’s benefits. Later down the page, the judge cites several codes of federal regulations that further detail how income is counted, how it affects a person’s eligibility for SSI, and what is counted as income or resources.

The judge also articulated that in-kind income is counted even though it is not monetary. In-kind income is food or shelter, or something that can be used to meet one’s needs. However, 20 CFR. 416.1130 states that an individual is not receiving in-kind income if said individual is paying the amount equals the market value. The later codes, 20 CFR 416.1131 and 20 CFR 416.1140 explain how in-kind support and maintenance is calculated. This last part is what makes it entirely illogical, as I will outline below.

On pages three and four, the judge has concluded that, based on the hearing and evidence submitted, there was no reason to decide in my favour. The Social Security Administration determined that if I had been receiving help from my mother, then I was no longer eligible to receive the full amount, and that they would take that away from me.

However, upon new developments of the case, one of my former teachers of the visually impaired, who I’ve spoken to in October 2019, and who is not an attorney, although they had connections to attorneys because of their own legal issues, suggested that if an individual is not able to pay rent for any reason, then one must either borrow money from somebody else, or get evicted. ‘Since my mother did not evict me, it means that she is still expecting me to pay back the money that I owe. So, by willingly telling the Social Security Administration that I had not been paying rent, it meant that she made the situation worse for her because she is ultimately getting less money from me each month. Therefore, I think that if she have had legal representation, the attorney would’ve advised her not to sign whatever Social Security had sent her, but rather, instead sign a different sworn statement saying something like, I hereby certify that Deadname is on loan for the amount of $3,800 for the time period of August 2016 through March 2018, and there would’ve been a different outcome to the case. The Social Security Administration would have requested evidence of a loan or rental agreement and proof that I would indeed pay her back. The problem is that there are not many attorneys who are fluent in Spanish, and interpreters are not always available. In response to my complaint where I said that I felt like we had not made a strong enough argument, my attorney said that he could not have seen any way to win except perhaps by outright lying under oath.

When I told my attorney about my new argument, he said that it obviously put the judge’s decision in conflict with SSI benefits, but it made sense in the same way. The judge articulated that SSA cannot or should not impose a repayment plan that would undermine the intent of the system. They are only using this as an excuse to take back the money they are calling overpaid simply because of a sworn statement signed by my mother when she needs that money more than they do. Still, he agreed that although my case might as well be entirely hopeless, the decision made against me was still basically offensive to a larger sense of decency. For that reason alone, he invited me to submit a supplemental testimony, which did no good because it did not change the underlying facts of the case or raise any new issues of law. He said that he submitted my supplemental testimony electronically, but I got no notice of this, and it wasn’t included in the exhibits provided by the Appeals Council, so I had no way of knowing whether it was received or reviewed.

 

So, when I got the letter of adverse action from Social Security on 26 April 2018, I immediately faxed it to my LegalShield provider firm, which I have had since 2012, thanks to my former teacher. The attorney who was assigned to my file asked me why my mother would do such a thing. I told her that she was probably afraid of committing fraud. She then said this: Doesn’t she know how to be sophisticated? I did not know what the attorney meant by that, but there would be a time when I wish I knew. My mother, not knowing how much this would hurt me financially, was very intimidated by Social Security’s strict policies that she thought what she did was right. Therefore, I am not blaming her for what she did, but I hope that this will be a lesson that we can all learn from. My attorney could have taken a chance to make this a high profile or landmark case. It only takes one person to change the rules, and my mother could’ve just kept her mouth shut.

 

Thus, I am proposing to settle the debt with my mother by using forgivable loans or rental assistance grants, so that I can put this behind me and move on with my life. I am also actively working to reestablish my credit history after I closed all my accounts before legally changing my name. This has made it virtually impossible for me to get the needed loan or credit to pay back my mother right away because I lost almost two years of historical information that would’ve helped me attain a good loan offer, but I want to get the satisfaction of turning the tables on Social Security for subsequently making my life worse by providing them with the new evidence. I have spent a little over six months disputing with the credit bureaus (with help from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau) to get them to migrate and merge my reports together. I might have to work with a loan officer or credit analyst. The good news is that I got approved for an unsecured credit card with a very low credit limit, so hopefully within a year, I’ll have proven myself to be creditworthy again to get the needed amount to pay back the rent.

Also, considering some historic events that started in early March, the world is currently experiencing a pandemic of the Corona Virus Disease of 2019 (COVID19.) This has consequently shifted the entire social, political, educational, economic, and any other imaginable landscape in a new direction. As such, local, state, and federal governments, and various nonprofit organisations, have started issuing stimulus packages and economic impact relief payments to eligible recipients while they continue to practise physical distancing and self-quarantine. Another thing my attorney said in his response to my complaint was that although he agreed that my case was grossly unfair given the extent of my disability, American society has always been grossly unfair, and he’s had several clients die while waiting for their hearings. For this reason, I feel that the novel corona virus is Karma’s way of punishing our society for bearing ill will towards its weakest members because the United States has always acted like a spoiled brat. Congress has even proposed a rent and mortgage forgiveness act, which I hope passes. This would make my and anyone else’s life easier during these trying times. Still, because my brother and I are adult dependents, we were not eligible to receive the stimulus cheque, so I called my senator’s office to talk to them about it.

If I were still a kid, or if my mother had legal custody of me as an adult, she would have every right to withhold any amount of money to take care of me, and I would have no control over it. If I had a job, or if my business was successful, and I was making lots of money, that’s another thing. But since neither is the case, I shouldn’t be forced to give up what little money I have and still try to make ends meet. And because I’m not paying utilities in addition to the rent, my SNAP benefits are below what most individuals living on Section Eight would get. My mother could have gotten a better job, gotten a degree, and have been able to provide me with the best things in life. In fact, there is a special needs trust which articulates that disabled people are entitled to have as much right (no more, no less) as anyone else, to experience life’s luxuries and basic needs for the purpose of maintaining good self-esteem. That’s why I look forward to the day when one or both of my parents retire so that my brother and I can get Disabled Adult Child Programme benefits. I will then invest in an ABLE (Achieve a Better Life Experience) or a IDA (individual development account).

Following the letter that I received from the Social Security Appeals Council’s denial of the case on Friday, 29 November 2019, I believe that my attorney was not able to submit my new argument in time. I also wonder how something so obvious was so easy for him to miss that he failed to see it. According to the complaint, he said that at the beginning of the consultation, he hesitated to take on my case because the chance of prevailing was virtually impossible to achieve. He only agreed to do it as a favour for the public good I.E. pro-bono. This is the main reason attorneys almost never take on overpayment cases because they almost never win.

 

In conclusion, I ask that the district judge require the Social Security Administration to return:

  1. The total amount collected for overpayment equalling approximately $1,196 as of December 2019.
  2. Redetermine the market value and return approximately $2,680.

These figures should amount to $3,876.

 

Given all the circumstances of my severe medical and financial hardship, and all the evidence in this case detailing those incidents, as well as how much time and energy I’ve spent to challenge the decision and the fact that we are now all in this together because of the pandemic, I am asking for the federal district court’s review of the administrative law judge’s decision, as well as the denial of the council’s review, so that my benefits can be restored to their original state, and that my mother is paid for the time that I should’ve been paying her. I also think my attorney deserves some compensation for his time, as well.

The Social Security Act was signed into law in 1935 to prevent abject poverty, and, by continuing to steal money from me each month because of a mistake, the Social Security Administration is also stealing money from my mother, as well, so it would defeat that purpose. My attorney even said that ‘stealing money from a blind person because of a mistake’ was strong language, but he hoped that by saying that, it would have influenced whoever was reading my supplemental testimony.

Furthermore, it would be against equity and good conscience to continue withholding any amount of overpayment because I depend on my benefits for food, clothing, transportation, and other necessities. I know that it is their money, and that they technically have every right to withhold any amount that they feel is negotiable, but it is only because of what evidence they have. Therefore, I personally believe that my mother deserves the money more than Social Security does because it would have helped her with the bills and other things. I will eventually be filing a plan to achieve self-support, as well.

Regardless as to whether I can get this decision overturned, I may report to the media, especially to someone who works on matters of consumer advocacy based on advice my friend has given me, who is big on journalism concerning financial affairs and rights protection. I was forewarned by some people (who are not attorneys) that I could get in trouble for doing so, but I think not, because I will be exercising my first amendment right to freedom of speech and freedom of press, the freedom to assemble, and the right to petition congress, which I will no doubt do if I cannot get anywhere through the administrative or legal system. Also, I would technically not be libeling or slandering the Social Security Administration, for I would be presenting evidence that would err any of the opposition’s rebuttals. Their answer would have to be, ‘No comment.’ It will make them look bad in the media that it will hopefully lead to an internal review of their policies, and that is what I will need to win. Plus, I believe that there are some whistleblower laws enacted by Congress, which prevents any entities from retaliating against you for exposing them. I also believe that if I share my story with one person, and if that one person were credible, then most people would be more likely to listen to that one person because of their credibility. Another thing that might count against me is that because a lot of this was taking place before I legally changed my name, all the evidence is currently listed under my Deadname. As someone who has undergone several traumatic experiences, I want to have nothing to do with this name, in public or otherwise, but unfortunately, it cannot be changed because it would degrade the value of the evidence. So, before I allow the media to publish my story, I will make sure they address me by my correct name and pronouns, and also blot out any documents containing my old name and pronouns on my terms, not theirs. Likewise, I have asked the bar to refrain from publishing my complaint, or at least removing any references to my Deadname.

Despite others telling me to just let it go, I refuse to put it at rest until something is done about it. I personally feel this is a battle worth fighting for, even if it takes a lifetime to do it. Or I could just drop the ball for now and just pay my mother $300 and have SSA pay me the full amount minus the minimum sum needed to collect on the overpayment even though my mother would be the one losing the money. Then I will come back to it a year later when I have built up to the required amount in credit. It will sort of be like a form of psychological warfare. The good news is that there are no statutes of limitations, so I can take as much time as I need to accomplish this.

 

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Stonewall Is Now

I know humans can be such cruel creatures when we turn things out of proportion, but that’s because they do not have the transhuman attitude. We need to stop quibbling about minority groups and just leave them be. They are no threat to us, so why make it hard for us to subsist?

Source: Stonewall Is Now

There’s more you can do. Tell your state and federal legislatures to pass laws that affirm all aspects of gender. Take a listen below.

Prepaid, Postpaid, Loans, Credit Cards: What They Are, and Why You Should Care

As I mentioned in my last post, I said that I would briefly explain the main differences between prepaid and postpaid. Hopefully, this will give you a better understanding between the two models, and why there are pros and cons to each approach, or why you should even bother with them. I endeavour to approach this rather complicated world of investments and loans by using analogies that even a sixth grader can understand.
Okay, suppose you went to McDonalds, and you ordered a meal. They tell you how much it is, and you pay for it. Then you eat your meal and you are done. In this example, you paid before you got your product or service. Pre means before. That is the case for the majority of transactions you will be familiar with.
Now, suppose you went to a fancy restaurant or a bar. You get a menu of items, and you tell the wait staff to get you what you want. They give it to you, and you eat it. Then, the bill or cheque arrives, and you have to pay for it. In this example, the staff trusted you to pay for their product or servivce after you had used it. This is because with this, you are paying after you had eaten your meal, not before. Post means after. This is a slightly less common type of transaction you will see on a daily basis. Note, with the advent of worldwide delivery apps in today’s technology, this will gradually dwindle. But, why would a restaurant use this approach in the first place? Traditionally, restaurants were made so you could choose what you wanted from a menu. The food would be prepared, but since it is not fast-food, it had to be done pretty slowly. While you ate, you could request more items until you were satisfied. All that required a means of keeping track of what you had and for how much. Additionally, some guidelines were made about how to properly tip the person waiting on you. If you couldn’t afford to pay for your bill, you had to work it out by washing dishes in most cases. Some hotels wouldn’t let you have a room without paying for it in advance if you didn’t have any luggage with you.
But, I digress. So, how does all this apply to loans, phones, credit cards, and stuff like that? Lots! Using our two examples, here are just a few more analogies.
If I went to a store and asked to get a prepaid phone, the first thing I am going to look at are the prices, and whether it is on a monthly value plan, or pay only as needed. A monthly value plan is when you pay for the service every month before you actually begin to use it. However, if you’re one of those people who don’t always use a phone every month, you can set up an as-needed arrangement. This is when you manually add credit to use the service whenever you need it the most. Since you’re paying for the services before you actually use them in these two examples, they are both called prepaid. Now, here’s what happens if you don’t pay for the next month, or if your minutes or whatever runs out. Since it is prepaid, they won’t charge you anything, since you had used something which you had paid for in advance.
So, now you might be thinking, why would I still have unlimited calling or texting if it were prepaid? Let me explain. We’ll use the following example. Let’s say that you purchased a package to go swimming at a pool for one month. The service is unlimited. It costs a hundred dollars. You handed that over to the cashier, and they gave you a pass. If you have that pass, and if it is still within the month, you will have unlimited access to the swimming pool. When the month runs out, you’ll no longer have access to the pool. You don’t have to pay anything, since you’ve already paid everything in advance. That amount is enough to keep their establishment afloat, provided that they have enough people using their services and they allocate their expendatures well.
Here’s another little concept that people usually don’t tell you about. Let’s say that you found a really neat gadget that you just had to get, but it was way out of your budget. Normally, a post-paid arrangement would be made. But, did you know that you can sometimes pay the amount in smaller chunks and then get the item? Well, that is actually possible. This is called a layaway. The downside to this is that you will most likely have to pay a deposit to ensure that the seller will not give the item to someone else. They will only hold it to you for a short amount of time, so you’ll have to be quick about it. It’s much like reserving your place at a hotel. The good news is that if you approach this carefully, you can also do this with some medical and cosmetic procedures not covered by insurance.
Now, here’s how postpaid really works, because it has some unique properties that are not found in prepaid concepts, whether this applies to limited or unlimited services. Think about it this way. Calling, texting, and data are all considered services that rely on an underlying infrastructure. A plan is a set of one or more services. You have a plan consisting of all three, unlimited calling and texting (within the US), and a certain number of GB in data). Before we get onto the slightly confusing concept of postpaid products and services, though, here’s a bit of a history lesson on how the consumer credit information industry began.
First of all, what is credit, anyway? Well, credit means to lend, in a way, with complete trust. If you do something amazing, you want others to give you credit for your achievement. So, when I credit you something, it means that I am taking your word for it and that I trust you or have belief in your accomplishments. That’s pretty much what the origin of the word means. If you remember from an earlier post, I talked about how civic virtue was a requirement, not an incentive in ancient rome, and how the government collapsed because of that.
There was a time when people would walk into a little general store, though it would usually be a well-known acquaintance or public figure; someone whose shopped there for many years. They often made purchases that were generally large enough to a point they couldn’t keep track of how much money they had. So, they would say, ‘I’ll pay you to-morrow if you’ll take my word for it.’ That was an extension of credit. The store credited the amount, which meant that the buyer had a debt, or debit, of said amount. Debit, by the way, comes from debt, but it has slightly different meanings depending on the context. When you debit a certain sum, you are basically saying that you are billing the bank for this amount. That’s also why it’s called a cheque.
Soon, charge accounts were started, and that was later followed by investing, which we won’t cover here. Suffice it to say that lenders rely on investment money to lend to borrowers.
So, people asked the merchants to put the items on their charge accounts, and every month a bill or invoice would be sent to the debter until it was paid off. This continued for a number of decades or centuries until around the 1950’s. Until then, this was about the only way people have done it, and then came along a gentleman by the name of Hilton. We all know of him because of his hotels. He started buying all these credit accounts from stores and eventually became so widespread that businesses were in on the deal. Soon after, the credit industry was born.
One of the first charge cards to be made were called the Hilton Club International card. Then came along the others, like American Express, Visa, Mastercard, and Discover. Interestingly enough, the Chargers football team got their name and a lightning bolt for their symbol, not because they wanted to charge across the field, but it was because they were representing people who charged these cards. So, naturally, we needed to develop a system of knowing whether you or I were credit-worthy. That led to the formation of a credit repository that later became known as one of the three credit bureaus; Equifax, Transunion, and Experian. There are more consumer reporting agencies, but almost everybody uses the three major credit bureaus today.
So, here’s what’s going to happen when you first go to a postpaid company. They will ask your permission for them to collect some information from you, so they could check you out via a small background check using your personal information such as your name, date of birth, social security number (usually the last four digits) and your address. Since this company is risking itself with you, they have to make sure that you are a responsible borrower. I’ll explain why in a bit. So, they’ll use your social security number and other demographic information to identify you through those credit bureaus. The most common credit scoring system is called the Faire Isaac Company (FICO) score. It generally ranges from 300 to 850 points. There are other scoring models that are sometimes used, like Vantage Score (which is found on CreditKarma) so don’t be surprised if you get a letter in the mail having a completely different score. Think about it this way. Your credit score is basically like a GPA in school. It measures how responsible you are with people whom you borrow money from, or what grades you tend to make on average.
Let’s say that the following statements are true: You were someone who borrows money from me because you needed to cover an unexpected expense that you couldn’t afford to pay off. So, you and I agreed that you would pay me back in full within six months by giving me a small portion of that sum. Let’s say I gave you six hundred dollars. You would pay me a hundred every month for six months, which adds up to the grand total. Let’s say that you’re very good at keeping track of this, so I am very confident that you will pay me back. As a result, you would have an A or B in borrowing money. So, your credit score would be around 750-850 points if it were an A. A B would be around 650-750 points. A C would be around 550-650 points, a d would be 450-550 points, and an F would be 300-450 points. This would also depend on your credit age and sources of income.
Many young people face a problem with not having credit, but there is hope! If you have a zero credit score, you have no grade, so lenders won’t know what to do with you. As an example, let’s say that I gave you the six hundred dollars. And let’s say you only paid back two hundred dollars, one each month, but after that you went off the radar, and you didn’t pay me back the rest. That’s a risk that all lenders have to face. So therefore, we would have to work out a form of security. The security is called a collateral. What kind of things do you have that are really valuable and are willing to give me if the amount of money you ask me is equal in value? Let’s say that you had a fancy musical keyboard that was pretty valuable and appraised it to be around $400. I gave you the four hundred, and you gave me the keyboard. The keyboard is worth the same amount I loaned you. Now, let’s say you paid me back only two hundred and went off the radar after that. Since you agreed to give me the keyboard, I would sell it to make up for the other two hundred that you failed to pay off. However, if you do manage to pay the debt in full, I will return the keyboard back to you. But, there is a catch. It not only cost me four hundred dollars, but I needed to be compensated for the loan as well. This is called an interest. This is how a lot of pawn shops work. Of course, you can always sell your items outright if you’d like. You can recognise pawn shops by their unique symbol.
As another example, let’s say I gave you a meal consisting of a Subway sandwich and a bag of chips. I gave them to you in advance, since you are really hungry. I would say that the meal is twelve dollars. But, let’s say you wanted more chips, so I got more of that for two dollars. Unfortunately, you only have twelve dollars with you, but because I got you another bag of chips, the total would be fourteen dollars. So, now you would owe me two dollars, since you already paid twelve dollars for the sandwich and first bag of chips. But you would still owe me the two for the extra bag of chips I gave you. So, you and I would work out a payment arrangement so that you could pay me back fifty cents a week. Note that this is just a hypothetical scenario that is very unlikely to happen. Let’s say that you agreed to pay me back by next month for four weeks. When that time arrived, and I still haven’t received anything, I might start charging you five cents for every day that you fail to pay me back after that. This is called a late fee. Sometimes it is also referred to as an interest rate, though this is usually fixed by something called an annual percentage rate and usually occurs when you only pay the minimum amount due. Watch out for promotional periods, because if you fail to pay off the amount during that period, they will start imposing finance charges and other things on you.
So, if $100 was the minimum amount for the loan of $400 that I gave you in the previous example, then I would charge interest, so you would be paying a little more than $100 per month. A finance charge is not the same as an annual fee.
Some time after credit cards came out, debit cards were introduced sometime between the 1970’s and 1990’s. Here’s an article that explains more. Generally, a merchant will be asked to collect money from a credit card transaction and be deducted a fee for doing so. If you charge a debit card as if it were a credit card, the transaction will show up as pending in your bank account. However, if you used a pin to conduct the transaction, then it becomes instant. Since most people say credit cards to assume all cards are either credit or debit, and since we don’t really know that, maybe saying bank card or payment card would make no distinction between the two.
One really good way to begin your credit history is to get a secured credit card from a bank or credit union. A security deposit is the same as a collateral. So, if you want a credit card with a credit limit of three hundred dollars, you would have to deposit three hundred dollars into a savings account, which will be held for you (usually for about a year) and then they will allow you to convert your account to an unsecured one. If you do well in about six months (in most cases), you can optionally choose to increase your credit limit by depositing more funds into the account. Most people will start with a revolving account, meaning that you might get caught in a cycle of charging your account, then paying it off, and repeating the cycle over and over. A common reason you might see in a letter of adverse action for loan denial is insufficient number of satisfactory-rated credit references. I actually had to dispute this because I recently went through a legal name change. That’s right. The Fair Credit Reporting Act allows you to dispute anything on the credit report, and the lender is required by law to reconsider the information based on the corrected report. If you can’t get anywhere, contact the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau.
As I later found out, though, I closed my accounts before going through the name change, and consequently, I lost all my credit history associated with it. So, I’m gonna have to start all the way at the beginning, or almost all the way. There are actually some unsecured credit cards with very low credit limits for people with bad credit. I don’t think people with no credit history will ever be able to get one of these, though. But it’s important to only use these cards for emergencies because the goal is to minimise spending and maximise payment to rapidly improve your creditworthiness.
Now, let’s say thatI just met you for the first time, and I didn’t have any prior information about you. Before I loaned you anything, I got permission from you to run a credit check, or hard enquiry. This will generally knock off a few points from your report. Then, to my amazement, I would see that you’ve had an impressive work history and that I would have no reason for denying you credit. That’s right! Employers and schools report information about you to the big three , and more.
But, what if you belong to a low-incidence disability population that is chronically underemployed? Fortunately, besides getting a secured credit card, there are a couple options. You can ask a trusted family member or close friend to add you as an authorised user. Although you will be making the payments yourself, it will still be their legal responsibility if you cannot afford to keep up for whatever reason. If you’ve heard of a cosigner, it doesn’t refer to cosign in math. Rather, it refers to someone whose credit history is better than yours and has agreed to add their signature alongside yours. This is usually done with several types of loans and apartment leases.
Here’s an article from WikiHow that explains how you can run a criminal background check or public records research using two methods: As an employer or land owner, or as a private citizen. The reality is that your credit score only says one thing about you, but your reputation is everything. Check how you can improve it. Unfortunately, a lot of places still require you to register your mother’s maiden name, or your father’s first name. This won’t work well if you have been adopted or raised by surrogates for same-sex couples or groups, or anybody in the trans and non-binary community. So, keep that in mind if you decide to register.
Anyway, with postpaid services like cell phone or MiFi carriers, cable or satellite providers, etc., you usually have to agree to a two-year contract, which simply states that you will stick to it and pay for any extra usage of a limited service that surpasses the agreed-upon plan, and that you would pay for any late fees or things like that. You also agree to pay any early termination fees if you decide to break out of contract for any reason. Except in rare circumstances, the fees cannot be waived. As an example, I’ll tell you a true story. This was a few years ago when I was first starting to understand all this stuff. I was still unclear on it, and it resulted in major issues. So, my mother gave me the internet service, and I started using it non-stop. After a few months, my mother started getting bills that were way over the agreed contract. We didn’t find out why until I made excessive and pressured enquiries, and that’s when they finally told us that we were only limited to ten GB of data each month, but I kept going up to twenty or thirty instead. That’s why you have to be careful when choosing a service. You don’t want to be stuck with something when you know that you would most likely end up needing more than what you thought you needed. So, never go beyond your limit if you know you won’t be able to afford it later. That’s why, when I went with Sprint, I wanted to make sure that they were completely honest with me. As a result, I then had thirty GB of data. When I first signed up with them in November, after the prepaid company I have been with shut down, I got a twelve GB data plan. Unfortunately, I found out that it was too little, so I called in to see if I could have my plan changed. I told them that I tend to average around twenty-five to thirty GB every month, and they finally located a good fit for me.
As long as I stayed within that limit each month, I only had to pay one hundred twenty dollars each month, since that’s how much the plan was. Back in December, when I first got my computer, I downloaded a lot of updates. And since it was early in the month, and I had already used twenty GB, I had to stop using the internet by the mid-part of December. But by the end of December, I couldn’t help it. I needed to use some more internet. So, as a result, I’ve gone over my included GB by five, So I had to pay off two hundred sixty dollars, along with the original one hundred twenty dollars that was agreed upon, for a total of three hundred eighty dollars. Fortunately, though, I had that money squirreled away in a safe place, so I arranged to have that paid off by next week, and it worked, so I basically cleared it off right on the spot. After that, I started making sure that I never went over that limit again.
So, the last thing that I will mention here is what’s called a rate. If you remember from basic arithmetic class, a rate is a change in quantity given over another quantity. For example, your heart beats at a rate of eighty beats per minute. So the rate is beats per minute. So, let’s look at that more closely. For every minute, there are eighty beats. Over two minutes, it would be 160. So your heart rate would be 160 beats per two minutes. When studying ratios and proportions, they will ask you to simplify that rate, so you would divide the top by the bottom, so 160/2=80. That will give you the end result for every one of whatever you’re measuring.
So, now let’s go back to the rate of usage. Suppose you went over your included limit of 3 GB by seven. Let’s say that the rate was five dollars for every GB spent after you’ve gone over the limit. So, to find out how much you have gone over, you would take the total number of GB spent, in this case, ten, and find the difference by subtracting your actual limit, which is three. The answer is seven. So, they would say something like, you’ve gone over your included gigabytes by seven point zero. Since the rate is five dollars per GB after you’ve gone over that 3GB limit, you would multiply the difference (seven), and the rate ($5), for a total of thirty-five dollars. That’s how much you would have to add. Let’s say that your agreed contract bill was twenty-five dollars per month. Since you went over your GB usage by seven, and because the fee is 35 dollars, you would add 25, which is how much you’re billed every month, and 35, which is the fee for the extra usage altogether. So, 25+35=60. So, for that month, you would have to pay sixty, plus any additional taxes and hidden fees that you were not aware of. That’s why it’s important for you to get a breakdown summary of the entire bill, so you know exactly how much you’re paying for, and for what.
There are a number of web sites that allow you to monitor your credit score for free, or add some optional features for a reduced fee. However, the Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act (FACTA) poses some restrictions on a credit bureau’s ability to sell credit reports. So, once a year, you can review your credit report for free by going to Annual Credit Report. My recommendation is that you get a report every four months, so that you always have access to the latest activity. Please keep in mind that not all these web sites are accessible to people using screen readers, so make sure you do your research with care. Some companies will provide you with a report in an alternative format. Random fact: credit bureaus and other consumer reporting agencies keep public record information about you for approximately twenty years. This includes things such as who your parents are, their age, where they’ve lived, who they worked for, and stuff like that. This is so that they can trick people and deter any attempts at fraudulent activity. So, keep that in mind when using that site. You’ll see a question like, Your credit report indicates that you may have opened a loan in 2010. Who is the lender for this account? If you do not recognise the question, select None of the above. They usually refer to your parents by their first name.
If your creditor tells you that your billing cycle starts on the eighteenth of the month and it ended on the fifteenth, it doesn’t always mean that they will report your balance to the credit bureaus on those days. For instance, my creditor reported on the last day of the month. It’s always best to use thirty percent or less of your overall credit limit. So, if you have two credit accounts totalling $1000, and you used two hundred in one and a hundred in the other, you have withdrawn $300 out of $1000. If a lender denies to give you credit, they will almost never tell you the exact reason why you were not approved because if they did, it might cause you to think of ways to work the system better, so they want to keep you guessing. Also, keep hard pulls to a minimum, and wait at least six months between each one, so that it won’t look as if you’re desperate for credit.
One thing I forgot to mention: if you failed to pay off your debt past the due date, you will get several notices letting you know that your debt will be handed over to a collections agency. Then a bill collector will try to get a hold of you in different ways to get you to settle the debt. If you default, which means that you fail to pay it off, that will cause severe impact to your credit score. If your debt is far greater than what you can afford, you might not have any choice left except to file bankruptcy. This usually involves having to go to court and possibly seeking legal help. If your only source of income is through things like Social Security or Social Insurance Disability benefits, creditors cannot force you to pay them back because that money wasn’t obtained from a job, and therefore, it’s not considered an asset. So, unless you won the lottery, you are technically judgement-proof. Look out for any notations or remarks surrounded in brackets, as those are adverse.
If you are currently enduring financial hardship, help is available. You can start out with the National Foundation for Credit Counselling. Additionally, you can get in touch with a debt management programme like the one I’m on. Simply click here to visit their web site. If you decide that your debt is still manageable, the programme will ask your creditors to lower the minimum payments in exchange for closing the account to further purchases. In case you die, and you don’t have a will available, your debt will be processed by a probate court along with any assets you might’ve owned. It might be possible to consolidate your debts with one loan or line of credit. Please consider talking to a loan officer or credit analyst before doing that, though.
Let me know if there are any additional questions you may have. Feel free to go over this several times. It might be helpful for you to absorb everything word for word, instead of looking at everything at once. Feel free to ask someone for help, such as a family member or a friend.
Good luck, and happy budgetting!

Additional Resources

My favourite web site for learning about anything relating to credit cards, loans, and mortgage is Nerd Wallet. http://www.nerdwallet.com/
How phone contracts affect your credit score: https://www.thebalance.com/does-my-cell-phone-payment-affect-my-credit-score-960537
Maybe utility and phone bills don’t report to the bureaus, but learn how you can use Credit Boost to make that happen. https://www.experian.com/consumer-products/score-boost.html
Should you use your debit card as credit, and what is the difference, anyway? https://finance.yahoo.com/news/happens-swipe-debit-card-credit-113015478.html
How to build credit as a business owner: https://www.creditcardinsider.com/learn/definitive-guide-building-business-credit/ and https://www.allbusiness.com/the-dos-and-donts-of-extending-credit-to-customers-13632208-1.html
The difference between a loan and a mortgage: https://www.diffen.com/difference/Loan_vs_Mortgage

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