Daily Archives: May 13, 2022

African Americans Being Unrecognized – Jeffery Kral

The Black Present and Presence program had Dr. Miller, Khalia Ii, and V. Dozier talk about the background of African American culture and how it has evolved within our society today. The book Freedom On My Mind by Deborah Gray and African American in Sports by David Wiggins both provide key understanding for Black culture. One of the main issues that was brought up was how African Americans are not credited for the accomplishments and impacts they have on society. Black culture is present all around us in our everyday lives, but we do not know this because they have been silenced. Dr. Miller helps us identify the aspects of Black culture in our everyday lives that we may not have known about and V. Dozer explains the overall presence of the Black community. This program helps us identify the aspects of Black culture that are hidden all around us and how the African American community, specifically women, have amplified their voices to combat this silence.

Dr. Miller introduced the program and brought up the continuation of marginalization for African Americans that exists in our society today. African Americans have popularized many things that exist today; however, they are not given the rightful credit they deserve. For example, Dr. Miller mentioned how black women have been criticized for designing and wearing unique styles of acrylics, but when a famous white person wears them then they are celebrated for it. In the book, African American in Sports, Wiggins explains how Florence Griffith Joyner was one of the fastest African American Olympian runners. Unfortunately, she was one person who was attacked for wearing acrylics during a race because it was not socially acceptable during the time. However, after retirement she “developed her own beauty and clothing lines” (Wiggins) and was not discouraged from her interests by the public. On the contrary, Kylie Jenner is appraised for wearing her own style of nails and now society is willing to accept different forms of nails. At first, I had no idea that African American women have played such an influential role in designing nails because the media never gave credit to them. However, after hearing Dr. Miller’s presentation, I now understand how African American women have evolved their styles, specifically nails in this case, from factors such as slavery, religion, and family. More aspects that have stemmed from Black culture that are overlooked or not noticed are “dapping”, wearing Nike air force one sneakers, nameplate necklaces, and much more. All of these are very popular in our everyday life, but are hardly connected to African Americans in the media. Something similar to this occurred in Freedom On My Mind when the English took advantage of the African technique of harvesting rice, which was a cash crop during this time. As a result, “enslaved Africans grew, harvested, and processed the crop using the equipment and technique first perfected in West Africa” (pg 164) and exported ten million pounds of rice per year. As a result, Carolina rice planters benefited from this tremendously and the enslaved workers got little to no profit from it. This exemplifies how the African American agricultural techniques were very crucial for farming rice in North and South Carolina in 1729. However, the English planters did not give them any credit and this technique was stripped from their culture. Now this is not exactly the same as Kylie Jenner stealing the concepts of nail designs, but it still carries the same weight and message of African Americans being unrecognized for their accomplishments. These examples make us wonder what other things they have been misrecognized for as we go through the history of African Americans.

Dozier explains the importance of communities and how it is present physically and digitally. First, she explains the concept of preferences and how we all have personal and academic preferences: “Twitter for academic preferences and Instagram for personal preferences” (Dozier). She connected this idea of preferences to communities. In her speech, she explains how black women found their niche community not only in person, but through Twitter too, “black Twitter” (Dozier). This online community is very influential for Black women and contributes to their growth. Specifically, they figured out how “environments can show forgiveness, reconciliation, and practice love in a way that makes us feel valued where we live, work, and play” (Dozier). This was found through the support and bond that the Black women community give to each other from the key use of digital spaces. For Twitter, they can send public messages and retweet those messages for more to see, which amplifies their voices so they can be heard. As a result, this creates close relationships with those in the community and offers protection for them as well. For example, V. Dozier mentioned a tweet regarding Tera Hunter being rightfully angry about Deborah McDowell’s prize-winning article not citing from her own book and taking all the credit: “This piece is heavily dependent on my book with no citation to it. Unfortunately, this is not the first time this has happened” (Tera Hunter). This tweet voices her concern about her hard work being stripped away and how her work has been exploited before. However, the Black Twitter community protected her by amplifying her concern through retweets and likes. As a result of all the community engagement, her voice got heard and the book ended up being restricted from being sold. Tera Hunter called for action to be taken and she got responses from her digital space community. This call and response technique has been a part of African American culture for a while and is present within churches, jazz music, and much more. This is an example of the protection that is present within the Black Twitter community. Furthermore, it solves the problem of the Black community being silenced and not being recognized where credit is due. From the digital space, Black women can come together and demonstrate resilience and have a voice that can not be silenced. The Black Twitter community portrays how powerful it is to be unified as one community. The Black women community is not just secluded in Twitter, it is also present in Instagram and Facebook in the same type of way.

In chapter nine of Freedom On My Mind, Deborah Gray delves into the topic of church and community in the 1890’s. Black churches were booming and brought African Americans together. Specifically, “the black church provided the most important institutional support in the transition from slavery to freedom. Joining a church was an act of physical and spiritual emancipation, and black churches united black communities” (Deborah Gray). This is very similar to the digital space that was discussed by V. Dozier because both of them revolve around coming together for a greater purpose. In this case, African Americans came together because “they rejected white Christianity and exited white churches” (Deborah Gray). From this, we can see how Black people had once come together in person to create a community and now they are able to connect with one another digitally.

The Black Present and Presence program discussed how Black culture is present in our everyday lives; however, some things are not fully credited for them. This program gave examples of African Americans being marginalized for things that are popularized today and the resilience that comes with being in a community. The community found in person and in the digital spaces helped Black culture be no longer silenced. Overall, this program informs us that Black culture is not only present physically, but it is also present in the digital space. More Black people will join the digital space to become even more connected with each other and to create positive environments to thrive in. 

Works Cited

Dozier, V. and Ii Khalia, “The Black Present and Presence” Saints and Serra Hall, University of San Diego, San Diego, California

 

White, Deborah G., et al. Freedom on My Mind: A History of African Americans, with Documents. Bedford/St. Martins, 2021. 

Wiggins, David Kenneth. African Americans in Sports. Sharpe Reference, 2004.

Are You Still a Slave? Liberating the Black Female Body- Adeyinka Adimula

 

For more than three decades, bell hooks (née Gloria Watkins) has been recognized internationally as a scholar, poet, author, and radical thinker. The dozens of books and articles she has published span several genres, including cultural and political analyses and critiques, personal memoirs, poetry collections, and children’s books. Her writings cover topics of gender, race, class, spirituality, teaching, and the significance of media in contemporary culture. According to Dr. hooks, these topics must be understood as interconnected in the production of systems of oppression and class domination. The bell hooks residency at The New School is an opportunity for students to engage with education as a practice of freedom. They can participate in a series of intimate conversations and public dialogues on subjects ranging from politics to love race to spirituality, and gender to lived bodies.

This conversation or film is based on Liberating the Black Female Body. Here, Dr. Hooks explains how black females have been dehumanized, tortured, enslaved, and mistreated throughout their lives in society. She goes ahead and says that there is no point to use all forces on black women so that others can pleasure themselves. Furthermore, she explains that most of the time, their voices have been shuttered and never heard. Thus, she thinks it is important to raise the voices of those who have been silent for a long. This seems to be the main idea of what is being discussed here. Clearly, the main theme here revolves around racism, discrimination, and gender disparities, in that, black females have been disregarded highly in most places in the country. They feel that this thing makes them uncomfortable and they need to be treated fairly like white women and white males.

Looking at these authors, each of them has given the experiences they have faced in their daily lives, which at one time or another, they have felt embarrassed. Looking at their facial expression, they look sad but confident that one day they will come out of this gender discrimination. In addition, they think that those who have faced difficulty in their work, school, and in the streets, of them have gone to the extent of committing suicide, bleaching their skins so that they can avoid some of the abuses they face daily.

Bell Hooks, while she may be a scholar and extraordinary woman, has proven time and again that she is not equipped for film criticism. She approaches art from a skewed perspective – a purely social one. She ignores the artistic power in reflecting a truth that can sometimes be literal, and other times spiritual (and in rare, extraordinary circumstances, both). Films like Twelve Years a Slave are not meant to be “entertainment,” and it’s to the film’s credit that she was not entertained by seeing a helpless woman get ravaged by her oppressors. Steve McQueen responsibly and boldly presented – visually – something that hooks herself has illustrated through her writing: the savage objectification and sexualization of black women at the hands of relentless white patriarchy. People are meant to feel and to learn from works of art like that film; one of the rare few in today’s theatres talking openly about race and slavery.

The themes are important for our African American history in that it talks about what happened and what has been happening to most black women in the past and today. There has been nothing that has changed despite most of them complaining to the press. The authors discuss that there is no for black people to change. In addition, most of them do this only to hide from being abused and disgraced by white people. There have been cases of sexual abuse and sex work in schools, hotels, working places. All of them come to an agreement that glimmer is good and that everyone should embrace that. It is important that most of us should claim our positivity and not bother about what others think about us. They think it is important for someone to claim the power they have and do what they think is right for them.

Also, by creating a cultural artifact, in that the power of images, which Hook believes will be important, especially in helping the transformation to take place. It is agreeable by others in that, creating this will help most of them to realize their vision.  The thing is that black people have faced abuse, despite raising their voices, they only receive more abuse from the whites and those in the media. For instance, in the book Freedom on My Mind, the author compares the struggles the black people endure in their pursuit of registration for voting practices. In that, the film doesn’t bypass harsh facts about the movement. Black people lost their jobs and risked their lives for daring to register to vote. There were cultural tensions between the Northern white students and the Southern black families with whom they lodged. Many of the black volunteers had never sat at a table with white people before. The students were aware (though perhaps not aware enough) that they were in the touchy paternalistic position of self-appointed saviors.

One of the members of the audience finds it hard to talk about something that happened to their family in the past. However, Hooks thinks it is important to raise such an issue within the family complexation because that will be the only way to end it. Also, they talk about humor during their conversation in the film. That is only used during certain contexts, and one should consider the audience they are sharing certain words because others would feel offended when certain words are used against them. And Hook describes Tyler Perry as one of the people who has used humor perfectly in his films.

I am “celibate,” or at least have been for some time, for the exact reason bell hooks mentioned.  I also found the audience reaction very interesting.  She had earlier called out our culture for idolizing fame, money, etc. … Sex is also high on that list of status symbols.  I agree with her on how narrow and unimaginative our definition of sex is … And that being a sexual being does not necessitate engaging in some prescribed behavior.  

Freedom on My Mind” offers scenes of a boardwalk packed with middle-American delegates, and the sound of that convention’s theme song, “Hello, Dolly” (recast as “Hello, Lyndon”). While Fannie Lou Hamer spoke on live television in favor of seating the civil rights delegates, President Johnson called a news conference that strategically bumped her off the air. Mr. Moses calls the rejection of the Freedom Democratic Party “a betrayal” by the Democrats and sees it as a turning point in the civil rights movement. “It led directly to armed struggle,” he says, “one of the great tragedies of this country.”

This is what Hook has highlighted in all their talks of black woman supremacy. She talks about freedom, which she thinks is important for everyone to have. Mercy believes that you either be free or die trying to search for that freedom rather than being ruled and controlled against your will. Hook also believes that the journey to freedom is not easy and made by ourselves, but by being surrounded by people who will help and guide us in achieving this kind of freedom. Everyone deserves someone to guide them so that they can achieve that freedom they deserve.  At any rate, for the exact attitude personified in the audience’s reaction, I don’t find this an easy topic to discuss.  But I do wonder about the “sex-positive” messages that seem to assume there is some vast pool of potential partners that are respectful and just waiting to safely explore any kind of behavior with utmost reverence … and that any “negative” messages only exist in a person’s head.  I don’t feel this is going to be particularly liberatory for young women, who will soon find lots of “nice guys” are not so nice in bed.  Celibacy can be a form of self-respect and preservation.  

In conclusion, in the quest of searching for freedom, we should believe in ourselves and trust the people who try to make us achieve our dreams. No, one deserves to be treated unfairly, and no one should be judged based on their color or gender. Despite all this, each one should stand firm and focus on their careers without thinking about what others think of them. Shirley believes that if you don’t like her, you should get out of her way and let her live her life. In the end, if we tend to focus and dwell on what others think about us and have emotions towards them, that is when we begin to develop negativity and depression toward ourselves.

“Are you still a slave? Liberating the Black Female Body” Discussed – Gabrielle Gaither

Janet Mock, left, listening to Bell Hooks, right.

On Tuesday, May 6th, 2014, The New School presented a conversation panel with four leading voices in black feminism and the LGBTQ+ community. In this conversation at Eugene Lang College The New School for Liberal Arts, radical thinker Bell Hooks leads an engaging dialogue with author Marci Blackman, film director Shola Lynch, and author and activist Janet Mock about the importance of liberating the black female body. The program begins with a brief introduction of the four influential women as well as what they have accomplished in their journey to resist, as Bell Hooks says, the imperialistic white supremacist capitalistic patriarchy that they have been oppressed by their entire lives. The purpose of this panel was to facilitate a conversation in a way that addressed the representation of the black female body and how individual black women can fight for their liberation from the constraints today’s society has imprisoned them with. Questions like “How can black women free themselves from the institutionalized stereotypes that confine them to cultivate new images of themselves?”, “Why is the portrayal of black women in the media important to young impressionable black girls?” and “How can black women create a different image of the female body that promotes self-liberation?” were some of the driving factors in this panel’s dialogue. Throughout the program, Bell Hooks and her fellow panelists highlight the importance of counter-hegemony and how the opposition to the existing status quo is key to a black woman’s ability to claim her identity as not one forged by society’s standards but those of her own. The narrative of the power that comes from a black women’s self-liberation and discovery is significant to the understanding of African American history as it forces the white hetero-cis majority, male and female, to realize the repercussions of the institutionalized racism enforced in today’s society that confines and dehumanizes African American women throughout their every day lives. The program’s theme is crucial as it solidifies the fact that the gendered, racial, and sexual relationships in contemporary America that are oppressive to black women, are the ripple effects of slavery. 

During the early portion of the program, Bell Hooks poses a pivotal question. Talking to African American women as a whole, she says, “Are you still a slave?” The question to some may seem outlandish as we know that slavery, in technical terms, was abolished by the Thirteenth Amendment on December 6th, 1865. Although that is the case, Bell Hooks is not talking about physical enslavement, but the enslavement of black women’s minds, souls, and ability to be seen as more than just their bodies. The panel discusses how although there are leading female black figures in today’s pop culture, like Beyonce for example, the majority of black women are still dehumanized and hyper-sexualized in society as well as on our television screens and magazine covers.  Analyzing the origins of these images and portrayals of African American women, we see a direct correlation to the treatment of black women in colonialist times. On page 79, Ch. 3, in Freedom on My Mind, by White, Bay, and Martin Jr. a painting from an anonymous artist depicts the two kinds of power that white slaveholders wielded over their slaves; physical power and sexual power. On the left side of the painting, a white male slaveholder is seen kissing an enslaved African American woman. This painting is a representation of how black women were seen as nothing more than sexual beings as they were not even considered women, nor granted the rights and freedom of a living person. Black women were seen as merely their reproductive systems and a form of economic profit. In 1662 a law made the enslavement of black women heritable. The idea that slavery was passed down through the mother, further degraded women and their bodies as they were denied the right to even seek liberty for their children. Women were sexualized as animals through the system of chattel slavery and were subject to domestic abuse, rape, and humiliation as their bodies were seen as the only part of them worth caring for. 

Throughout history, black women have been reduced to images like the Black Mammy, Jezebel, and Sapphire that portray them as either a breeder, a caretaker, a sex-crazed individual, or emasculating angry black women. These fictitious stereotypes, authored by the dominant white society, were created in the early twentieth century to allow the legitimization of racial prejudice, violence, and continued support of slavery. Although slavery has been abolished, the footprint it left on African American women’s lives has continued to plague them with damaging stereotypes while the white majority refuses to recognize where they came from. During the program, Bell Hooks emphasizes the importance of female representation in the media and films. The image of black women continuously being victimized, sexualized, and denigrated is damaging to all black women as they are given expectations of who they are supposed to be. How are young back girls supposed to claim their sense of self if the only versions of themselves they are seeing are those who are oppressed and in despair? While the painful history of African Americans needs to be known, Bell Hooks says “Despair is not resistance,” and that resistance is what African American women need to define and create a different and more empowering image of the female body. 

During the program, filmmaker Shola Lynch and novelist Marcy Blackmon speak on their experiences of being told to fit into a certain box. Blackmon includes an anecdote of her experience in the airport and how she was demoralized because she didn’t quite fit into society’s standards, the “box.” The continuation of a white society being able to decide what black women can and cannot be has created an environment that only fosters prejudice, conformity, and hate towards those who are different. During this conversation, Bell Hooks asks, “How do we begin to free the black girl body, the black boy body, before they have undergone years and years of emotional assault and colonization.” This quote forces those who are listening to see just how young black children are when they are assigned their worth by the white society’s standards. It is imperative to introduce young black girls to empowering female leaders like Angela Davis who found their own identity based on embracing who she was and what she was passionate about. Black women must be seen as main characters, not just a victim or side characters, but as someone with a story worth telling.

Research has made clear that the negative stereotypes about African American women have been fundamental to their oppression with roots deep in the historical systematic racism that began with slavery. African American women are associated with negative connotations involving motherhood, sexuality, hygiene, and more that are all extensions of the stereotypes conceived during times of the slave trade and reconstruction era. In a research journal titled, The Colonial Roots of the Racial Fetishization of Black Women, author Caren M. Holmes tackles the history of the sexual debasement and abuse of black women and how it is still prevalent in contemporary culture. Holmes argues that the sexualization of the New World and its possibilities led to the rhetoric of submission and exploitation of the black female body. Modern racial fetishizing is addressed as “an extension of the sexualization of black bodies during the colonial era.” Tying Holmes’s argument in with that of Bell Hooks, we are reminded of just how much racism towards African Americans is embedded in our everyday lives. It’s been proven time and time again that, “…black bodies remain byproducts of an ongoing manifest destiny,” (Caren M. Holmes, 2016.) Bell Hooks believes that the injustices against black women’s bodies aren’t going to be solved by creating one’s reclaimed version, but by the complete resistance and opposition to oppression. 

The program “Are you still a slave? Liberating the black female body” enlightens audiences on the painfully true reality that an African American woman has no agency in her own life until she can surpass the racialized obstacles in the imperialistic, white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy that America calls “equal.” Programs like these that call out the fabrication of equality in the present day are so important as they bring validity to the experiences of those who are oppressed, and responsibility and accountability to the oppressors. The four panelists spark ideas and imaginations of black women in the audience about who they can become, who they can be, and who they already are but don’t know yet. At one point during the conversation, Janet Mock and Shola Lynch talk about the importance of having women of color that they looked up to. It is pivotal that young girls have black female role models that they can look up to. Women who have broken the barriers of prejudice by finding the power to imagine a new narrative for themselves are the inspiration of hope. 

Slavery ended on December 6th, 1865. Kamala Harris was sworn in as vice president on January 20th, 2021. Why has it taken over a century and a half for black women to start to be given the respect and credibility that they deserve? This question is the exact reason why this program is so crucial to African American history; to educate those who are unaware or ignorant of the injustices black women face every day, and to facilitate a critical thinking environment for those who aim to solve it.

 

Works Cited: 

Holmes, Caren M. (2016) “The Colonial Roots of the Racial Fetishization of Black Women,” Black & Gold: Vol. 2.

Available at: https://openworks.wooster.edu/blackandgold/vol2/iss1/2

 

White D. G., Bay M., & Jr. W. E. M. (2020). Freedom on My Mind. [Macmillan]. Retrieved from https://macmillan.vitalsource.com/#/books/9781319265670/

 

African American Power from Presence

Prior to enrolling in a course that would delve into the largely under-celebrated black history, I must admit that I was not prepared to learn about the anguish and lack of care black people in this country faced during its history. All the critical information left out of my high school history class had hit me at once and it left me feeling curious about the inner workings and complexities of black culture and presence. This curiosity was turned into knowledge through the semester as I learned a lot from not only lectures but through programs, coordinated by the USD Department of History (Dr. Channon Miller, Ph.D.), which featured respected speakers from the black community. One event stuck out to me as it featured two very successful women in their field, and they spoke on a topic that piqued my interest. These women were the V. Dozier a Tuskegee University, University of Alabama, and Duke University alumni. She also has many publications recently including a chapter regarding excellence, diversity, equality, and inclusion for a handbook for academic libraries. As well as Khalia Ii, a Ph.D. candidate with almost 15 years in higher education. The event was focused on exploring the present state and presence of blackness in everyday life and as such, it was called “The Black Present and Presence”. In the program, the V. Dozier and Khalia Ii each spoke about aspects of the black community which are not only vital to our understanding of blackness presently but also historically.

Often in technological spaces, we find that minorities like black people and their work are faced with the possibility of erasure or marginalization simply because our society permeates their work through the default identity of the white male. The default identity and its impact on digital spaces are talked about frequently in the program as it is comparable to elements of de facto segregation. De facto segregation isn’t anything new to the black community since throughout America’s history black Americans have faced harsh segregation many times. One example is found in Freedom on my mind by Deborah Gray White, Mia Bay, and Waldo E. Martin Jr.. Chapter 11 says that in 1910-1920 when black Americans tried to move beyond the “’ black belt’, white homeowners’ associations resisted with…violence” (White p.667). As such black people in the area were forced to create communities outside of white neighborhoods. However, this led to the creation of “lively and self-sufficient” neighborhoods with “businesses, churches, and social clubs and organizations owned or operated by blacks for blacks.” (p.668). These communities uplifted countless black Americans during this time of financial insecurity and were an avenue for the rise of women in these areas. This idea of black communities being created to lift each other is still embraced in our modern society, as V. Dozier spoke about the importance of Black beauty shops in their communities. These spaces create areas in which black people, specifically women, can go to protect and sustain themselves. Where this program got especially interesting for me is when V. Dozier began relating these communities to the digital spaces that surround us. Twitter for example is huge in the black community, 40% of 18 to 29-year-olds in black communities who use the internet say they use Twitter, which is much more compared to 28 percent of white folk in the same demographic (Pew Research Center). V. Dozier also recognized this idea when she spoke about how the former CEO of Twitter recognized the black community as an essential part of the app. Further, the large demographic of people on this app has resulted in the tendencies of black people to repeat themselves this time in a digital space, and thus black Twitter was born. With this platform, black communities have so much power at the tips of their fingers. More specifically they have “the power to control narratives in real-time”. This is an especially powerful sentiment because throughout history black people have often never had the chance to dispel public and false narratives about their character and how they are culturally, as seen with the creation of caricatures that falsely represent African Americans and their cultures. Now black people have a way to not just have their voices heard but amplified. Through the appliance of the self-help ideology black communities have used for so long, black twitter mimics a call-and-response technique seen oftentimes in black churches. Black twitter mirrors black churches in more ways than one though. During the talk about the environment, Twitter provides I couldn’t help but recall learning about the power of the black churches during the Reconstruction era. Much like with Twitter these churches “united black communities” and “reflected the freedpeople’s desire for dignity, autonomy, and self-expression”.

Black churches often also promoted the economy in areas they were located by fundraising, buying from, and promoting black businesses. This is fascinatingly similar to how black Twitter operates since it is a mechanism for users to share and find information as well as create a network that promotes “economic empowerment” and “black joy” (Shamika Klassen et al.) It has even been referred to as a “Modern Day Green Book” after research by Shamika Klassen of the University of Colorado and others. Another important aspect of black Twitter, brought up by V. Dozier, centers around the disregard for black historian citation in works that draw heavily on their work. Tera Hunter was a historian talked about during the program since she had experienced the “erasure” of her scholarship in a Washington Post column. Nevertheless, when she found out and tweeted about it she realized that there were already others in the space that were tweeting about her work being erased. The support for black women in these spaces is unreal and as I watched the program, I learned so much about the power that black communities hold within them. Twitter is a necessary channel for black people to not only uplift each other but also express themselves and their cultural identity. 

The expression of one’s beauty through hair has long been an aspect of black women’s identity. I will admit I was again very curious to hear Khalia Ii speak on this topic because it was one, I was not very educated on. Much like other cultural traditions in black culture hair is something often associated with racist and discriminatory words. Despite this, black women maintain pride in their hair much like Khalia Ii when she spoke about how happy she was to “have the longest hair out of everyone” at the hairdresser. Yet despite this pride, Khalia Ii seemed to express struggles with her hair that I would assume many black women go through. It was so enlightening and funny to hear her discuss the strife she had with her mother when she employed hair techniques, she had seen her non-black friends use in the bathroom, as well as informing us of the practices and measures needed in a young woman’s everyday life to preserve her natural hair. I don’t have any physical cultural aspects like black hair which require constant attention, so it was very interesting to listen to Khalia Ii’s experiences. What I found even more profound during her talk was the video she played of Professor Melissa Harris Perry. Even though the video was a mere three-minute and 44-second it was so powerful as she gracefully spoke about the complexities of black hair and the variety of methods used to embrace it.

After Khalia Ii and V. Dozier wrapped up their program, I was left with an idea I found to be very common in our class text “Freedom on My Mind”. It was the importance of community and unity within the black culture. In the past, African Americans were forced out of communities and faced radical discrimination in the economy, schooling, and religion. Yet, no matter the situation, black people came together and lifted each other up. While our class and lecture focused mainly on the historical context of this, I found more than enough modern context for this idea during the program “The Black Present and Presence,” hosted by my Professor Dr. Channon Miller Ph.D. The conversations during this program answered many curiosities I had regarding black culture and undoubtedly elevated the black identity for me and everyone in attendance through its thought-provoking ideas on digital spaces as well as the importance of hair in the black identity.

 

Works Cited

Pew Research Center. (2013). African Americans and technology use: A demographic portrait . Retrieved from http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2014/African-American-TechUse.aspx.

Klassen, S., Kingsley, S., McCall, K., Weinberg, J., & Fiesler, C. (2021). More than a modern day Green book: Exploring the online community of black twitter. Proceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction, 5(CSCW2), 1–29. https://doi.org/10.1145/3479602

White, D. G., Bay, M., & Martin, W. E. (2021). Freedom on my mind: A history of African Americans, with documents. Bedford/St. Martins.

Black History Project at USD

The Sum of Us Reflection

On February 28th I attended a program where Author Heather Mcghee spoke on her book The Sum of Us: What Racism Cost Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together, published on February 9th of 2021. Heather Mcghee is an expert in economic and social policy with a degree from Yale and the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law. During the hour she spoke about her book she highlighted the one big question she set out to answer when writing the book: “Did you ever wonder why it seems like we can’t have nice things in America?” The simple answer to her search is racism, but she went deeper and used three main points to briefly explain the findings of her book during the hour program. The book itself and her attitude throughout the entirety of the program was hopeful and optimistic. Heather didn’t speak with hate, resentment, or contempt but rather talked about our history to emphasize the need for change. Mcghee’s work in writing her book presents a more modern take on racism using historic events that are more familiar to people of our generation such as the financial crisis. The program allowed for a greater understanding of African American History through Mcghee’s explanation that racism is a “zero-sum game,” the cause of the 2008 housing and financial crisis, and the reason we never had a true democracy. 

“Zero-sum game” briefly explained is generally a term used to describe a situation within the game theory, but can also apply to society. Between two opposing teams, one gains while the other loses and the net outcome between the two teams is zero which poses the question: was there any real improvement? In Mcghee’s words “There’s an us and a them, and what’s good for them is bad for us”(Mcghee 6). While Mcghee discussed her thought process when answering why racism is a zero-sum game she said, “Since everything we believe comes from a story who is telling whites this story.” From this, she proceeded to explain how the loss of public pools in America is an important example of the zero-sum game throughout history. She told a story about Oak Park in Montgomery, Alabama in the early twentieth century. A beautiful flat open lawn that had a brand new 1000-plus-person swimming pool that was only open to white people. The pool was owned by the local government and was presented as a public good despite being segregated. This was not the only pool with these rules; many of these so-called public pools were segregated. Blacks began to protest knowing that their tax dollars were going to pools they were not permitted to attend and soon later the segregation of public goods fell, but not how you may have thought. Public goods such as these pools were closed down rather than integrated. Instead, the public goods were sold off by the local government, typically to private companies. The local government is a prime example of how one side gains, but at what cost. 

 Private companies, unlike the local government, were free to regulate their business as they wished, so many of these now private goods remained segregated. Private goods not only affected those of dark skin complexion but also whites of low income, broadening the side of the zero-sum game that loses. Mcghee’s pool example is a more recent version of racism’s role in the zero-sum game. Further back in time the same argument can be made about the triangular slave trade. Blacks were ripped from their homes and forced to work for whites who sold them and the crops they worked on for profit. Once again in this scenario, whites gain at the cost of blacks. The top one percent’s prosperity is equal to the large percent losing in our society, which is a sad thought to have. Was there any real improvement? It’s hard to tell when nobody pays attention to the signs.

Mcghee credited racism for causing the 2008 housing crisis and explains how if the signs weren’t ignored, the whole thing could have been prevented. Before the boom in technological advancements, being a miner was a high-risk job. Canaries, a type of bird that due to their small size were prone to develop illnesses due to harmful environments prior to humans, were partnered with miners to indicate warning signs in the mines such as chemical gasses. Mcghee used this metaphor of missed warning signs to layout chapter four in her book. The financial and housing crisis hit blacks the hardest due to redlining, an invisible form of segregation. Redlining is the act of preventing a service from certain areas because of race or ethnicity, typically the services denied are financial. Many rumors circulated around the people who were victims of the financial and housing crisis such as “they were in over their heads”  or “they couldn’t afford the house anyway” when that was not the case at all. Blacks within these red-lined districts were presented and given loans that were unsafe, subprime loans. Subprime loans are loans generally handed out to individuals who are a credit risk, and what is not always clear about these loans is that the interest rates are extremely high and are not set, meaning they can adjust as time goes on. The truth that Mcghee exposes is that these redlined districts were targeted by a racist Financial Sector and political agenda once again to take advantage of the black community. If you still don’t believe that racism played a role, the slang for these subprime loans was “N-word loans.” Unfortunately, we can’t seem to learn from history because this is not the first time blacks have been isolated into their own communities by invisible lines. Back in 1915 and 1930 during the Great Migration, the south side of Chicago had another invisible line called “the black belt.” Blacks remained in southern Chicago because of this line, as stated in Freedom on My Mind, they were suffering “…from inferior sewage control, lighting, and police protection. Because housing was scarce, rents were higher…and groceries were more expensive” (White 423). These invisible lines very well might be the product of our democracy, something Mcghee claims we never truly had.

Our democracy has many holes that Mcghee pointed out during the program. She went on to read her chapter on democracy and explain in detail what those holes are. America was built on the idea of freedom, ironically something black people didn’t experience in this country until the 13th amendment, and even after the patching of that hole in our constitution blacks still experience inequalities. One of the largest holes that still exist in our democracy is our voting process. We exercise the use of our electoral college. In Mcghee’s words “An Electoral College built to protect slavery has sent two recent candidates to the White House, George W. Bush and Donald J. Trump, who both lost the popular vote. The Electoral College still over-represents white people, but in an interesting parallel to the free/slave tilt from the original Constitution, not all white people benefit” (Mcghee 141). This goes back to the beginning of racism being a zero-sum game. The use of the electoral college when voting in our country is a prime example of whites trying to tear down blacks and in the end actually losing themselves.  

When author Mcghee was finished speaking and opened the floor up to questions she was asked, “Do you think we have reached our moral limit?” I am unable to directly quote Mrs. Mcghee, but her answer was that she is hopeful that we have, but overall she answered no, but rebutted that we aren’t moving backward which is a good sign. Mcghee states that racism is a zero-sum game, the cause of the 2008 Housing and Financial Crisis, and the reason we never had a true democracy. From what I have learned in class, about the slave trade, the fight for freedom, and the fight for equality during the great migration and during this program, she is right. Many things need to change but if we continue to learn from past mistakes and stop playing the zero-sum game our society will prosper.

 

Citations

McGhee, Heather C. The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together. One World , 2021. 

White, Deborah G., et al. Freedom on My Mind: A History of African Americans, with Documents. Bedford/St. Martins, 2013. 

 

African American History Repeats Itself Once Again -Gavin Saville

African American History Repeats Itself Once Again

In the mid 1300’s about 25 million people died from the Black Death Plague, in the 2000’s more than 600,000 deaths have been reported from HIV, and as of today about 6.2 million people have died from Covid 19. These three tragic, but different events in history have all caused death signifying history repeating itself. Furthermore, the repetition of certain events, patterns, or changes in society are very common yet seem to be unpreventable. In order to prevent these events or actions from happening one must first educate themselves with the topic and then analyze its pattern. For example, African Americans have endured oppression and discrimination throughout what seems to be a never ending amount of time. Although many strategies, movements, and people have been applied to fight this problem, it still continues to happen. The program “Black Present and Black Presence” coordinated by Channon Miller, head of the history department at the University of San Diego, and the Studies of African American History course held at the university, both make light of the importance of black community and the struggle to be embraced and recognized which signifies the repetition of history. 

Speakers V. Dozier and Khalia Li give insight into the more recent views of discrimination against the African American community. Assistant professor V. Dozier focusses on internet spaces, default standards, and identity politics concerning the African American community. Beginning the analysis, Dozier points out the “default of society” being the white man and how “everyone else has some type of qualifier”. The white man is entitled to just being him. She lays down an understanding of realization in order for the audience to grasp the reality of a situation they might not have ever thought of. Furthermore relating to the evidence of African Americans and other minorities not being accepted as a default. In the book “Freedom on My Mind” by Waldo Martin, Mia Bay, Deborah Gray White that is provided for the African American History course, it states that black women in the 1970’s “reiterated the concept of double jeopardy” “the phenomenon of being Black and female, in a country that is both racist and sexist”  This statement is captivating because of the diction used to describe the crippling reality of having the title of “Black female” during this time. The comparison of double jeopardy to the harsh behavior toward them is brilliant in order to create change. In addition this demonstrates the tie between two different points in history and how these classifications repeat themselves. Dozier exemplifies how these social norms have transferred to the internet through Google searches, YouTube, and other social media platforms. Almost instantaneously she represents change and progress toward eliminating these “defaults” by not including black women in the title, making herself the default. She is letting the audience know how easy it is and the power she has to make this simple change of representation. The utilization of a video on YouTube comparing black women to a “diverse, complex ecological system allows her to convey to the audience why community is needed amongst the black community. In particular, it is needed because “When married in organizations and schools among faculties [black women] figured out how environments, whether it’s a team at a school or a nursing staff can show forgiveness, reconciliation and practice love, in a way that serves us all that we feel safe and valued where we live, work and play”. The strength of this statement is beyond comparison and enhances the overall argument. The listeners can infer from this outside video how important community is to feel accepted. The textbook mentions that “Mutual aid societies, independent black churches, and black schools knit black communities together. A range of benevolent institutions for women and men” “helped individuals look out for one another”. By building on the opportunities and branches of community, the book helps give a more clear representation of the communities in the mid 1800’s. It is evident how similar the black community and its forefronts are when compared through history. With the advancement of technology, this community has been shifted to Twitter as explained in the presentation in order to give black women a platform “to amplify [their] voices in ways that are previously unseen” which “allows [them] to move information in such a quick way”. With this development of communication within this community, the opportunities for change and improvement of the treatment of African Americans become more obtainable. 

Khalia Li demonstrates a more personal take on black women’s cultural presents and presence focusing on the journey of her hair. Khalia shares that her interpretation of this presentation and its meaning was “gifts that we are as black women” and “the gift that we give by our cultural contributions” depicting why she chose to do her contribution of hair style. Cultural contributions are often overlooked although they play a huge role in everyday society. She demonstrates the sense of exclusion even within her own culture as she “can recall watching some of [her] friends who were African American but possess the good hair [she] so long desired for”. The audience can understand and try to sympathize given this strong feeling of envy that the speaker conveys toward what she believed to be “good hair” based on cultural standards. Although this hair journey represents style, the audience can see how much more it was to Khalia in the sense that she “did not have the courage” to wear her hair natural and “kept [her] hair straight and weaved and that felt safe and important to her”. Khalia’s struggle to embrace her own natural beauty because of social norms or how other people would react represents a failed attempt at acceptance of individuality within the community. Moreover, the audience must acknowledge that “White women and non black folks” “have taken on [these] hairstyles and have” “enjoyed [the] culture” without any “sense of reverence” toward the African American culture or community. Unfortunately, it goes unrecognized in society today but by sharing her journey, Khalia can spread this experience with confidence and intent to change the way people think. In the reading from the course, a similar feeling is described by Johnnie Tillmon as she says “I’m a woman, I’m a black woman. I’m a poor woman. I’m a fat woman. I’m a middle-aged woman. And I’m on welfare. In this country, if you’re any one of those things — poor, black, fat, female, middle-aged, on welfare — you count less as a human being. If you’re all those things, you don’t count at all.”32. This quote from the text stands out tremendously because it portrays the immense emotion that African American women felt during this period of time around the 1970’s. Khalia’s fear to be herself and be comfortable in her own skin and the lack of self confidence that Johnnie Tillman explains to the reader signify that the conditions have changed but the feelings of Black women have not.

Overall, it is evident that the program “Black Present and Black Presence”, and the Studies of African American History course, both teach the significance of the African American community and how difficult it is to be acknowledged and appreciated as a member of the black community which represents history repeating itself. Similar to how the black death, HIV, and Covid 19, are examples of history repeating itself, so are the defaults that go along with society, black community and its structural habits, and the lack of comfortability of Black Women in their own skin throughout history. The program and the course together outline what the faults that labels have, the strength in community, and the hardships faced by being a Black woman within society and throughout history. If one knows that history repeats itself and knows why certain outcomes in history were caused, it should be simple to prevent the same mistakes over and over again. 

Black Presence and Present-Darshan Shore

Darshan Shore 

African American History 

Channon Miller

05/05/2022

Black Presence and Present

 

                 For my Black History project, I decided to write about a presentation put on by the University of San Diego’s Humanities Center. “The Black Present and Presents” was a presentation I had the honor of going to. I walked out feeling like I had a new perspective on Black women’s culture and a better understanding of it. The three speakers that spoke at this event shared their educational and personal experiences. Channon Miller is a professor at USD who has her Ph.D. and works in the history department. V. Dozier is an assistant professor and an education librarian at the Copley Library. She has published several books and has graduated from multiple Universities around the country. Finally, Khalia Li is almost done with her Ph.D. at the University of San Diego. This presentation has given me a better understanding of African American History, by showing me how individuals are still affected in today’s world, through hearing their individualized stories and their learning objectives. With this in mind, I will be exploring the misrepresentation of Black culture as a whole and on a personal level of a Black women’s hair journey. Lastly, how social media has started to expose these injustices in today’s society. 

                    Black culture played a massive role in United States history. It is essential when learning about Black culture to recognize the significant influence it had and continues to have and recognize the misrepresentation and appropriation of it. To better understand Black history, I looked at were a lot of it started in the Harlem Renaissance. Dr. Miller introduced the consumption of Black culture, helping give me a better understanding of the topic of Black Woman (In)Visibility. I knew the basics of consumption nowadays but not to the extent we learned about in the presentation. Dr. Miller mentioned that people who are not Black often take aspects of blackness for granted and fail to recognize its history. For example, “The dap was a form of human communication African Americans developed during the Black power generation, the 1970s era” (Miller). This example stuck out to me the most because of how often it is used in today’s society by all races. I use this in my life and see hundreds of others in my generation use this as a standard form of greeting. I never knew that it stemmed from the Vietnam war as a sign of Black power. It’s important to realize that consumption of culture itself is not harmful. The lack of knowledge and representation of using these styles or actions as your own is damaging. 

                When the media or others celebrate non-black people for using these styles or trends and being unique when Black people have been doing these for years and have never seen any recognition, it is harmful. Dr. Miller said, “When these trends are shown on Black bodies, it is made marginal vs. when others where they are praised and admired. That’s when it becomes elevated” (Miller). People fail to recognize the damage that comes from the silencing of these communities. It’s so wrong that white people must pick up these styles, cultures, and trends before the public sees them. We have seen many examples of this recognition through generations of white people picking up these as their own. 

               With so much rich culture created over the years, I asked where all this came from. The Harlem Renaissance was an extremely influential time. It was a time when Black culture thrived through art, music, dance, poets, etc. These arts allowed them to bring and separate their culture from the rest of the U.S. In our class text, “Freedom on My Mind,” White, Bay, and Martin Jr. wrote, “The Harlem Renaissance promoted a more accurate and affirmative understanding of African American history and culture. It also demonstrated the beauty and power of race-conscious art and enriched American culture immeasurably”.(696). With this new inspiration coming from this era, growth came about in everything from music to clothing styles that influenced today’s trends. They fail to see the tragedies that lead to the Harlem Renaissance. My biggest takeaway is that you must understand the history behind cultures. You do not appropriate them by misusing their styles, hair, and others to your benefit because you are not affected by the history of where this culture was born. So you do not get to pick up these styles as you please. 

                To better understand history, we must see how physical attributes like hair and others were used to condemn black people while people of other races have been celebrated and given credit for doing the same thing. In looking at a book called “Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America” by Ayana Byrd and Lori Tharps. The book is about Black hair from the 15th century to now and how it has changed. Tharps wrote, “And so we went from loving our hair and carefully caring for our hair, covering up our hair and trying to emulate European styles [but] not because we thought they were pretty.” Black hair holds so much more history and meaning than any non-black person would be able to understand. 

               Khalia Li shared her personal experience with her hair journey growing up. I was glad to hear her experience and her perspective. She mentioned how important her hair was to her growing up. And how important it is to so many others. There are ideas of good hair and bad hair instilled into young children. Many Black people have memories of their hair being such a big part of growing up. She read from her essay saying, “Good hair often refers to less coarse hair, with more loose curls silky smooth. Any hair that can sustain a traditional 1970s Afro style would easily be characterized as being bad. In my opinion, my hair texture was its antithesis nappy.” (Li). So many people who are not in the Black community don’t understand the significance of hair. Li said her mom referred to her hair like Medusa, and that image stuck with her. Growing up, having the idea that your hair is terrible is damaging. I can see why adopting these hairstyles on a non-black person is discriminatory. It’s important to realize these styles stem from history. Just because you want this style does not mean you have the right to pick it up when you want to or drop it when you want to. This, like the other topics, goes along with the lack of representation in the culture and hairstyles that Black women deal with. Non-black people will use these styles as they become trendy but then discontinue them once they are not. With the help of social media, Black people have been able to use their voices to help end these injustices.

               Dozier’s brought up the topic of social media and how it is a platform for so many people to use their voices to right wrongs. Throughout history, Black people have been silenced, but now in the present, they are doing everything they can to counteract these damages. Black Twitter has been an outlet, and here is why. She told a story about Tara Hunter, who is a Black historian. Her work was stolen, and she was not cited or given credit. Thanks to Twitter, she could find this and make it right. Twitter has been used to push problems to the surface that have been lingering. It has given people a voice. Learning all this showed me how social media is not just to scroll through mindlessly. It can be used as a tool. Another example she shared was a story about Jennifer Buck, who published a book called “Toward a Trap Feminism Theology Bad and Boujee.” A Book she did not have the authority to write. Cause of Twitter’s help, “Other black feminist told her that that was not ok to write this and not sight us.” (Dozier’s) Now that sharing is easier than ever, it is getting harder and harder to steal others’ work and easier to point this out. That is why Twitter has given so many people a voice and helped communities thrive. Social media has helped spread awareness around Black history and allowed people to recognize what is rightfully theirs. I did not realize what a significant role social media has played, but now I am interested in Twitter and what else I can learn from this source.

                  Lived experiences change so much from person to person. And changes a lot from gender to gender and race to race. That is why my experience with something like hair is entirely different from that of someone with long hair or a different texture. After hearing about Twitter’s significance, it reminds me of when Black women first used their voices to create mass change. In Freedom on my Mind, we learned about how Black women made a change by participating in the women’s suffrage movement in the 1920s. They wrote, “After the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. The Constitution granted women suffrage in 1920, the votes of black women significantly enhanced northern black political influence” (P.669). They used their voice long before they had a vote. With their voice, they shared everything from personal experiences to culture as a whole. To better understand history, we must see how the present is helping undo a lot of these injustices. 

                 After hearing this presentation on “The Black Present and Presents,” I learned a lot from the three speakers. I gained a better understanding and appreciation for Black history. Acknowledgment and credit are essential; things hold significance whether or not you have personally experienced them. Social media is a place where voices that have been silenced can be heard. Lastly, you must have a good understanding of Black history in order to understand the misrepresentation that is now happening in our country. I believe that knowledge of the subject of race and gender is constantly growing. It is essential that the public’s understanding also grows. New outlets allowing for voices to be heard for more education are crucial. I took away that my education on the personal level of Black history is minimal, and I need to learn more about Black presence and presence in today’s world. In doing so, I will keep in mind V. Dozier’s rules of respectful interaction with other communities that I’m not involved with to help me further my education without burdening others within that community. I believe it’s important as a white male to learn and know how to properly learn about Black history.

Cited 

White, Deborah G., et al. Freedom on My Mind: A History of African Americans, with Documents. 3rd ed., Bedford/St. Martins, 2021. 

Byrd, Ayana D., and Lori L. Tharps. Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America. St. Martin’s Press, 2014. 

“Sign in to Panopto.” Panopto, https://sandiego.hosted.panopto.com/Panopto/Pages/Viewer.aspx?id=748af3dd-017a-44ad-8831-ae7f000db309. 

 

“The Zero-Sum Paradigm”- Kate Derham

Kate Derham

Professor Miller

HIST-128

13 May 2022

The Zero-Sum Paradigm

         In honor of February being Black History Month, I virtually attended Heather McGee’s book talk about “The Sum of Us ”on February 28, 2022. This book talk was the fifth event for the Black History Month partnership between the San Diego Public Library and the Copley Library. Every year, these two organizations work together to bring the attendees thought provoking programs that encourage conversation and self-reflection. Heather McGee is the chair of the board for the Color of Change, the nation’s largest online racial justice organization as well as an educator. McGee explains how she wrote this book out of frustration as she mainly focuses on solutions to inequality by using data to spot problems within the American economy and its widening inequality. The predominant theme in her book is the zero-sum paradigm and how black history of racial segregation and economic inequality have an impact on society today. To deeper understand the zero-sum paradigm, an individual must explore the foundations and influences of affirmative action, housing segregation, and economic inequality in African American history and examine their lasting effects. 

         To introduce the zero-sum paradigm, McGee concludes that many believe in a fixed pie of well-being(zero-sum paradigm); the progress of one group must come at the expense of the other. She first saw this in a research study titled “Whites See Racism as a Zero-Sum Game That They Are Now Losing” by Michal I. Norton and Samuel R. Sommers. In their article they explain how “White Americans perceive increases in racial equality as threatening their dominant position in American society, with Whites likely to perceive that actions taken to improve the welfare of minority groups must come at their expense” (Norton & Sommers, 215). An individual may question where this deep-rooted belief of the zero-sum paradigm came from. This can be found in African American History tracing back to when affirmative action was introduced. In “Freedom on My Mind,” when discussing affirmative action, the book states that many whites believed “that affirmative action threatened their jobs and income” and Nixon supported this belief with his anti-affirmative action arguments and regimes. Many whites argued that the race and gender-based criteria for education, jobs and contracts rewarded “the dumb, lazy, and unambitious at the expense of the smart, talented, and ambitious.” White workers often quit jobs when black workers were hired, or hazed new black workers. Whites supported segregationist George Wallace or Nixon in hopes of affirmative action ceasing(Martin, Bay & White, 958). These sentiments sourced from the 1970s, directly relate to the zero-sum paradigm, as whites felt threatened by black people gaining freedom and advancements. However, this deep-rooted zero-sum sentiment began before this affirmative action era, dating back to the foundations of racial segregation and economic inequality.

           Heather McGee elaborates on the zero-sum paradigm when she explains the loss of public pools in America due to residential segregation. She traveled to McHenry, Alabama and visited Oak Park. In the middle of the beautiful park was a wide flat playing field. However, she soon came to find out that there used to be a lavishly funded, resort style public swimming pool. The creation of this swimming pool was part of a “building boom” of public amenities and goods such as libraries, schools, roads, bridges, parks and pools in the 1930s and 40s. However, all of these amenities were racially segregated. There was either a white’s only sign on the pool fence or segregation was enforced through intimidation and violence at the water’s edge. Rightfully so, black families fought back and said that those were their tax dollars funding the pools and their kids should be able to swim in them. So, in response, the government drained the public pools, rather than integrate them. This didn’t just happen in the Jim Crow South, it happened in Ohio, New Jersey, California, and Washington state, where they chose to destroy a public good, rather than integrate. Aside from the usage of public amenities, the general idea of residential segregation can be seen in African American history through the use of redlining. Real estate agents used maps created by the U.S. government’s Homeowners Loan Corporation to keep African Americans corralled in the inner city. These areas were considered hazardous and designated off limits for government-guaranteed bank loans. White’s believed that providing black people with housing would bring mayhem and drive down home values, so real estate companies played on white fear and encouraged them to sell their homes at low prices, which were resold to minorities at higher prices(blockbusting)(Martin, Bay & White, 666). In Camille Zubrinsky Charles’ journal, she looks into the future effects of redlining; “living in racially segregated neighborhoods has serious implications for the present and future mobility opportunities of those who are excluded from desirable areas”(167). Heather McGee emphasized that redlining and restrictive covenants have undermined black economic advancement by preventing blacks from building up equity in their homes, limiting them from upward social mobility. Racial segregation and its detrimental effects relates to the zero-sum paradigm because at this time White’s believed that they could only be successful and have access to nice housing if the black community was neglected and segregated. Racial segregation results in income and economic inequality, which is also linked to the zero-sum paradigm.

         Heather McGee touched on income inequality and the effects it had on the lives of black people in history and its continual effects. She explained that black families today earn less than 15 cents on the dollar for every dollar that the average white family has, showing that history has had an influence on this wealth and asset divide between blacks and whites. During slavery, the enslaved faced terrible hardships and worked long hours under grueling conditions. In the post-Revolutionary years, black people had restrictions on their economic lives and were confined to unskilled, menial, and low paying labor positions. The constant inequality and oppression that was present in black working and economic life was exhausting and discriminatory, so the black people called for action. In response, McGee pointed out the significance of the March on Washington. This March on Washington symbolized the civil rights movement, and the direct-action black people were seeking to end segregation in American life and achieve economic justice for black Americans (Martin, Bay & White, 865). They demanded federal job guarantees and the national living wage. However, just as the State Department was about to capitalize on their demands, a bomb exploded in Birmingham’s Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, which had been the organizing center of the city’s civil rights demonstrations(Martin, Bay & White, 869). This response to the black community fighting for basic civil rights can also be connected to the zero-sum paradigm. White people viewed the civil rights movement as a threat and grew increasingly hostile in fear that African Americans could disempower them and threaten their positionality and access to jobs. Today, this fight for black income and economic equality is still very prevalent. Sean F. Reardon and Kendra Bischoff explain in their journal article that income inequality has “an effect that is larger for black families than for white families”(1092). They analyze modern-day effects of this; “given high levels of racial segregation in U.S. cities, the growth of income segregation among black families results in the increasing racial and socioeconomic isolation of lower-income black families in neighborhoods of concentrated disadvantage”( Reardon & Bischoff, 1139). Evidently, the relationship of residential and economic racism has been occurring since the 1960s and is clearly connected to the zero-sum paradigm that was and still is present in society today..

         When reflecting on Heather McGee’s book talk on “The Sum of Us”, the predominant theme that is explored is the zero-sum paradigm. The zero-sum paradigm is significant to an individual’s understanding of African American History because specific concepts such as affirmative action, housing segregation and economic inequality were influenced by this paradigm and it continues to have an influence on the functionality of our society today. The continuation of structural racism in our society calls for action beginning with the acknowledgment of African American history and the influence of the zero sum paradigm. 

 

 

Works Cited

Charles, Camille Zubrinsky. “The Dynamics of Racial Residential Segregation.” Annual Review 

               of Sociology, vol. 29, no. 1, Aug. 2003, pp. 167–207, 

                https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.soc.29.010202.100002.

Deborah Gray White, et al. Freedom on My Mind : A History of African Americans, with 

               Documents. Volume 2 since 1865. Boston New York Bedford/St. Martins, 2017.

Norton, Michael I., and Samuel R. Sommers. “Whites See Racism as a Zero-Sum Game That 

               They Are Now Losing.” Perspectives on Psychological Science, vol. 6, no. 3, May 2011, 

               10. 215–18, https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691611406922.

Reardon, Sean F., and Kendra Bischoff. “Income Inequality and Income Segregation.” American 

                Journal of Sociology, vol. 116, no. 4, Jan. 2011, pp. 1092–153, 

                https://doi.org/10.1086/657114.

 

How Racism Economically Effects the Individual and the Nation – Sophia Timm

Throughout the past centuries African Americans have fought for their freedom and equality, yet the fight still continues. Racism can be seen in many different aspects such as politically, economically, socially, and more. Writer Heather McGhee speaks on this issue of inequality in her book The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together. McGhee set out to find how racism effects the country as a whole, specifically the American economy. Throughout her book she talks about many of today’s issues that stem from issues in the past. I learned about the effects of a zero sum mindset, the right and ability to earn money, and how this is overall affected by access to education. This all contributes to economic inequality and the widening of the wealth gap between Whites and Blacks which has helped me widen my overall understanding of African American History.

Her journey began out of her frustration with racial discrimination which was then followed by curiosity as she wanted to discover how racism has economically effected the individual as well as nation as a whole. This pushed her to make the unexpected decision to leave her dream job in 2017 to answer the question: “why … can’t [we] have nice things in America ”, meaning why are there not living wages for all workers, access to education, affordable healthcare, etc. According to McGhee, most of this can be answered by the Zero-Sum Mindset which is the idea that one person’s gain is another person’s loss. This begs the question of why so many white Americans have the idea that life is a fixed pie of well being; “If I get more, you get less” and vice versa. McGhee believes this is due to whites seeing racism as a Zero Sum game that they are now losing. I find this interesting as this means that some whites, even if subconsciously, believe that the more wealthy Black people there are in society the worse off they will be. In contrast, Black people do not see the world in the same lense of the Zero Sum Policy. This is important to our understanding of African American History as this mindset stems from the past and can be seen throughout history in a variety of ways. One such way is DeFacto Segregation discussed throughout Chapter 14 of Freedom On My Mind. DeFacto Segregation is a type of racism that is used to separate Blacks from Whites in a non-systematic way as it is a “less visible” form of racism that still maintains racial barriers. This still allows whites to appear as superior, relating back to the Zero Sum mindset that the less rights African Americans have the more the whites have. These acts of racism continue to have a large affect on today’s society, explained further when The Harvard Gazette states that, “the legacy of slavery and other subsequent forms of legal discrimination against African Americans have hindered their ability to accumulate wealth”, which relates back to McGhee’s statement that the Zero Sum mindset has led to many current economic issues.

 In her book, McGhee analyzes the 1950’s – 1960’s, a time when the country was still heavily segregated. She learned that many policies such as lack of access to public resources, lack of housing, lack of access to education and more led to “institutional racism and individual racism creat[ing] so much distance” as discussed in the program. What McGhee meant was that all these acts of racism created an even larger economic gap between whites and Blacks. This is important because she talks about individual racism, in addition to institutional racism to show that both have an equal effect on the country’s economic status. This connects to Chapter 15 of our textbook, Freedom On My Mind as it too discusses the topic of Economic Inequality during this time. The text shares that James Farmer of CORE says, “It will be a hollow victory, indeed, if we win the important rights to spend our money in places of public accommodation, on buses, or what have you, without also winning the even more vital right to earn money” (914). This quote shows that even with the right to get money, African Americans are still economically poor as they are not able to purchase certain items, live in certain areas, and have certain jobs. This is very compelling to me as our current economic status is connected to that of the past as Black people are still victims of predatory lending, reverse redlining and more. As sadly stated in The Harvard Gazette, “…most everybody across the political spectrum agrees  that if a child grows up poor, but works hard and takes advantage of opportunities, that child’s children will have a better life,’ said Murnane. ‘That’s less true now.’” This large economic gap between racial groups has grown to the point of no return which is almost impossible to escape from. That is a hard reality to face. 

Currently, this gap continues to grow. As the economic gap began small in the past, there were less severe differences between the rich and the poor. Yet, in today’s society there is a clear difference and it is mostly due to education, more specifically, access to education. The Harvard Gazette states, “Rising inequality has led to growing gaps in educational resources and learning opportunities between high-income families and their low-income counterparts”, showing the correlation between education and wealth, in which most lower income families are people of color and have lower access to better education. Similarly, in the program as McGhee talks about her book she discusses that the “average Black college graduate earns less than a white college drop out”. So even with a college degree, a Black graduate has less economic opportunity because of racism. If Black Americans are unable to get jobs and start incurring debt then, it impacts the country and nation’s economy as whole. This is significant to our understanding of African American History as in Chapter 14 of  Freedom On My Mind, it too discusses the importance of education, yet the inability to access it. The book states, “Wallace called for the elimination of racism ‘from our unions, our business organizations, our educational institutions and our employment practices’” (834). This is important because while the elimination of racism was clearly needed in the working industry and government, Wallance also stated the importance of eliminating racism in schools. This is because education was and still is the key to wealth. Similarly, even decades ago, African Americans knew the importance of education and that it was a necessity to be granted the same educational opportunities as the whites as it was the first step to social equality. 

Overall, McGhee’s program discussing her book, The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together, along with our class textbook, Freedom On My Mind, and the article,The Harvard Gazette, all agree upon similar aspects of racism that have continued to affect our nation today. This has helped widen my understanding of African American history as I was able to understand the importance of learning the history of racism and discrimination as it is still present in today’s society. However, in the program McGhee states that,“There are absolutely signs of hope” after the civil rights movements and popular events that happened in 2020. As it will always be a battle of people of goodwill and good dreams versus people of zero visions. According to McGhee we are, “all doing our part to chip away at an old and big wall”, meaning the wall of racism. This is why McGhee’s program, our textbook, and The Harvard Gazette article have all helped expand my understanding of African American History and how it has affected our current society economically. 

Bibliography

McGhee, Heather C. The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together. Profile Books Ltd., 2022. 

Mineo, Liz. “Racial Wealth Gap May Be a Key to Other Inequities.” Harvard Gazette, Harvard Gazette, 17 June 2021, https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2021/06/racial-wealth-gap-may-be-a-key-to-other-inequities/. 

White, Deborah G., et al. Freedom on My Mind: A History of African Americans, with Documents. Bedford/St. Martins, 2021. 

Justice Yet To Be Served-Alfred Chow

Justice Not Served

“It is not possible to be in favor of justice for some people and not be in favor of justice for all people” was said by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, one of the most visible civil rights activist leaders during the mid-20th century. In this time, his voice rocked the whole nation as well as inspired black people for the fight for equality. But, although progress had been made towards equality, many young African Americans still feel vulnerable to racism and marginalization in America. In Cathy Cohen’s speech, she talks about the vulnerability and feelings young African Americans are feeling nowadays. She points out the fact that they do not feel safe, and they may even feel alienated by the institutions that were supposed to protect United States citizens. The data she drew from was significant as it demonstrated feelings of young African American people as well as evidence of inequality. Although white people have continually brushed aside the issue with racism and unequal treatment towards backs, it is most definitely an issue in the United States. For generations, African Americans have felt unsafe under the system that were supposed to protect them, thus it should be impossible for people to claim that whites and blacks are treated as equal.

Vulnerability has been a dire feeling for African Americans, since the birth of the nation, black people have suffered through countless racial inequalities. So, its no wonder why they still feel vulnerable even to this date. Cathy Cohen is a famous political science figure who have also been studying young adult politics for 15 years now. In her speech given she believes that “Vulnerability is a necessary component of living a rich and authentic human life,” however, it can also “signifies the damaging and indeed disastrous effects of domination and power” (Cohen). In the case of African American people, a survey has been done and shown that African American young adults feels that black people are treated worse by the police as to white people.  Over the recent years, there have been many accounts of police brutality that have taken place. One of the most notable cases includes the beating of Rodney King. In 1991, a man named Rodney King who lived in Los Angeles had a video taken of him “lying on the ground while police beat him with batons.” While the officers argued that it was a justified use of force, many, including most African Americans saw it as police brutality. When the jury came back with a non-guilty verdict, outrage swept the nation and riots erupted across the United States as African Americans saw the entire incident as a symbol of the many “unmitigated extralegal justice that followed blacks” (White 989-990). This is just one of many cases of police brutality that has taken place in recent history, others include the murder of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. These cases are a microcosm of how black people have been treated since they were forced over here in the United States. From the time African Americans were slaves till now, although they have achieved freedom, the thing that have remained same for centuries is that they have and will still be treated as less until or institutions changes.

While the police force is supposed to create a safe environment for citizens, many African Americans certainly do not feel that way. Thus, Cathy Cohen talks about the concept of alienated vulnerability. She defined it as “a feeling of harm and anger, with no sense that the institution, systems, and agents…will protect you.” If a whole group of people feels as if they are treated poorly by law enforcements, it signifies that there must be something wrong in our system which leads to this problem. As citizens of the United States, African Americans should not feel afraid of the police, the police force should act to protect all citizens. They should not treat half of all citizens better than the other. This indicates that white people still believe themselves as a superior race. Most interestingly, Cohen also mentions that white young adults also feel vulnerability, that they feel their positions in society are vulnerable and that their jobs in the future may be at stake because of competition. Because of these fears, politicians understands that they need to suppress African Americans and their efforts made towards equal rights. This was the case with Nixon’s administration and the New Rights he implemented. The New Rights essentially reversed a lot of the effort made towards an equal society for African Americans. Thus, giving white people a sense of superiority. For every action or step made towards equality, African Americans have also dealt with hold backs and regression. With laws and regulations that specifically targets black people, the country has essentially chosen to marginalize a whole race. This ultimately shows how much power white politicians have, and that there haven’t been much justice shown towards African Americans.

For the majority of African Americans, they still feel as if they are lacking a voice, they are desperate for revolution thus spawning protests and movements to do so. After the unjustified killings on George Zimmerman in 2013, three African American lesbians created a hashtag that would soon “take America and the world by storm.” After years of neglect by society, as they are “denied fleeting economic opportunity” as well as suffering “diminishing public education,” African Americans have had enough thus sparking the Black Lives Matter movement that is still going strongly today. This movement would eventually become a “battle cry within the African American community” as it was a call to action from the black community towards politicians (Royster). As young people feel vulnerable under our system, they now “see protests as politics” as they “demand transformational disruption through protest elections.” Cathy Cohen believes that at the heart of these responses, young people believe that “there has to be systemic change for them to ever feel and function like full and equal citizens in the country” (Cohen). It bears significance that young people now see protests as politics. As young people are losing hope for our government, they are doing whatever they can to have their voices heard. Under the constitution of the United States, everyone should have access to the most basics of rights to people. African Americans nowadays still do not feel as if they have an equal number of rights and justice that belongs to them. Cathy Cohen makes a great point when she says that a systemic change is needed for black people to feel equal to whites. Equality is an idea that starts from the ground up, if there is a fundamental part of a system that is not in favor of it, then how can a society function with equality. Citizens will not feel safe until those fundamental errors are corrected and until then, African Americans will continually feel suppressed under the current system.

Young African Americans have now been left to wrestle with the system that have been structured to marginalize and suppress their rights for centuries. For generations, black African Americans have been trying relentlessly to get a taste of equality. But every time progress is made, white people have tampered with the progress, ultimately slowing down all the effort that have been made. This leaves this generation of young African American feeling vulnerable in this society. The BLM movement have shown the world what Africa Americans are still feeling, and they hope that something may change sooner or later. This country needs to wake up and realize that a country is better a united group. Hate and suppression will only slow the advancement of a group. Our institution must realize that change is needed to facilitate equality because currently there are a lot of flaws in the systems that prevent it. The meaning of Justice is to have fair and equality to all, but a big part of society still neglects the fact that a big population do not feel as if they have been favored by justice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Work Cited

Cohen, Cathy. “We Want Revolution.” Illume Speaker Series Presents. We Want Revolution, 11 May 2022, San Diego, Humanities Center.

Royster, Dwayne D., and Stephen G. Ray Jr. “Race and Social Reality for African Americans in

the 21st Century.” The American Mosaic: The African American Experience, ABC-CLIO, 2022, africanamerican2.abc-clio.com/Topics/Display/2174022?sid=2174023&cid=91. Accessed 13 May 2022.

White, Deborah G., et al. Freedom on My Mind: A History of African Americans, with Documents. Bedford/St. Martins, 2021.