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Responding to the aftermath of Maria in Puerto Rico

The following reflects the majority opinion of the editorial board.

Last week, hurricane Maria left Puerto Rico in a catastrophic state. Viral videos permeated Facebook and Twitter feeds showing violent winds and indescribable destruction. Homes were ripped from where they once stood and demolished by the wind and rain. Resources are scarce on the island -- including gas and water, both of which are necessary for survival. Additionally, Puerto Rico is anticipated to be without electricity for the next two months.

It's devastation like the island has never seen in recent years.

The incident was overshadowed in the national headlines by the recent controversy President Trump sparked when he criticized NFL free agent Colin Kaepernick for kneeling during the national anthem. And while the state of racial injustice in our country is undoubtedly an issue, we cannot allow the lack of relief being provided to Puerto Rico by the U.S. government to be swept under the radar.

Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States. In this case, that means it's an annexed island reminiscent of an imperial America, fixated on invading and owning land that wasn't theirs. Continued abuse on the island (i.e. sterilizing Puerto Rican women and using Puerto Rican land as a bombing range and site for military training) was a gross misuse of U.S. power. Puerto Ricans have American citizenship but are allowed virtually no political influence. The island doesn't have voting power, and Puerto Ricans can't vote for president.

Though the Trump administration's decision to lift the Jones Act was commendable, actions by the President himself such as accusing the Mayor of Puerto Rico, the woman spearheading on-the-ground relief efforts, of "poor leadership." He added that, "They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort."

The "they" in question refers to the 3.41 million Americans who inhabit the island. Due to its territorial status, every single person living on the island is a natural born U.S. citizen and they are all entitled to the same relief efforts the U.S. has put forth in Katrina, Harvey and any other natural disaster that has struck the mainland U.S.

And this isn't just an issue that affects the U.S. as a nation. It affects our Miami community as well. There is a small, but significant, population of students here who are from Puerto Rico, or have family living there and are subsequently impacted by the aftermath of the storm. They are here and they are hurting -- they exist on this editorial staff, on our athletic teams and we walk next to them on our way to classes and as we head Uptown.

And even if you aren't affected directly by Maria or you don't know anyone who is, how can you not look at the devastation and understand that it is absolutely necessary -- vital -- to help Puerto Rico and give the people the aid that they need?

Here on campus, we have officers of the African Student Union organizing a fundraiser to send donations to a Puerto Rican group in Humboldt Park Chicago. This past Friday, the geography department coordinated a Puerto Rico Mapathon for hurricane relief event, where 15 faculty, six staff, 19 graduate students, 76 undergraduates and two community members mapped a section of the island, outlining the buildings the Red Cross was planning on getting relief/aid to.

We would like to commend both the African Student Union and the geography department for these impactful actions. And we would like to encourage the entire student body to follow suit. Donate to organizations that are putting forth great efforts to helping provide on the ground relief. Donate clothing. Donate nonperishable goods, toiletries. Do whatever you can to help.

Because while we will be going about our lives as normal for the next few weeks on this campus, the college students, the college students who are the same as us, will not be going to class, spending their weekends out and about and living life carefree. They'll be waiting in seemingly endless lines to get fuel for their cars. They'll be fighting to get a trickle of water from the relief resources being provided. They'll be living without electricity. They'll be struggling to get by.

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Below are ongoing relief efforts benefiting Puerto Rico: