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REMINDER: DO NOT APPROPRIATE SOMEONE’S CULTURE THIS HALLOWEEN

Halloween is approaching fast, and this means it is time to start thinking of a costume to wear (for your virtual zoom party or around the house of course). So, this post is a reminder to everyone that one should not appropriate someone’s culture as a costume! This is Cultural Appropriation. The definition of cultural appropriation is “the adoption of an element or elements of one culture or identity by members of another culture or identity.” This could mean taking intellectual property, cultural expressions or artifacts, history and ways of knowledge, parts (symbols, artifacts, dress, practices) or any instance that is commonly associated with and/or perceived as belonging to another. A common result to cultural appropriation is commodification. Commodification is the process in which the dominant culture has the freedom and/or power to take objects or artifacts from other cultures. Through this process, the relationship between these objects or artifacts and their intrinsic value is lost.

Some examples of cultural appropriation:

  • black face
  • simply being “a different race for halloween”
  • gypsies
  • geishas

Some ways that you can address this issue:

  • Reflect on yourself – ask yourself, do you know what is cultural appropriation and have you done it before?
  • Talk to your friends and bring up the subject – what do they think of it?
  • Reflect on your costume this year – is your costume based on someone’s race, ethnicity, or culture? Does my costume use stereotypes to make a joke or to be sexy? Is it exploiting another culture?
  • Advocate!!!

A good resource that I found that touches on this subject is University of Denver’s “We’re a Culture, Not a Costume” photo campaign that aims to raise awareness and create a respectful and inclusive community for the students. What do you think about cultural appropriation? I have researched this topic and have found that there is a fine line between cultural appropriation and appreciation.

Indigenous Peoples Day

Red Cloud - Wikipedia
Red Cloud; picture credentials: Wikipedia

They made us many promises—more than I can remember— but they never kept but one; they promised to take our land, and they took it

Red Cloud, a leader of the Oglala Lakota from the years 1868-1909

This past Monday, October 12, was what is commonly known as Columbus Day, or in some states, Indigenous Peoples Day. Fourteen states —Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wisconsin— plus the District of Columbia and more than 130 cities observe Indigenous Peoples Day instead of, or in addition to Columbus Day. Personally, I do not recognize Columbus Day as a day that should be celebrated. Listed below are the reasons why. This topic might be triggering as it deals with rape and murder; if it is to you, please do not click further!

VOTER SUPPRESSION

How to Make Sure Your Vote Counts This November in Texas – Texas Monthly
Remember to Vote! Picture Credentials: Texas Monthly

In 1965, the Voting Rights Act was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson. This act was created to overcome legal barriers at the state and local levels that ensured that minorities, primarily African Americans, would be unable to exercise their right to vote which was given to them through the 15th Amendment. The 15th Amendment states:

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

Amendment XV

This amendment, which was ratified in 1870, prevented states from denying a male citizen the right to vote based on “race, color or previous condition of servitude.” Nevertheless, state legislators sought loopholes and used various discriminatory practices to prevent African Americans from exercising their right to vote. Some examples of these practices are literacy tests, poll taxes, grandfather clauses (laws that made men eligible to vote if their ‘grandfather’ had been able to vote before African-Americans were allowed to) or outright lying. Black people attempting to vote would often be met with an election official telling them that they had gotten the wrong day/location/time or that they would need to take a literacy test. Due to oppression and insufficient schooling, black people had a much higher rate of illiteracy compared to white people. So, they were often forced to take literacy tests and if they failed, would be sent away. The Voting Rights Act banned the use of literacy tests, grandfather clauses, and “good character tests.” After the Act had been passed, voter turnout amongst black people significantly jumped. In Mississippi alone, it had jumped from a mere 6% in 1964 to 59% in 1969.

In June 2013, the supreme court altered the section 5 of the Voting Rights Act in a case called Shelby county v. Holder. In a 5-4 ruling, the court decided that the landmark law that required certain states and localities with a history of discrimination against minority voters to get changes cleared by the federal government before they went into effect would be removed. This removal would mean that discriminatory voting policies could not be blocked before they harmed voters. Immediately after the decision, Republican lawmakers in Texas and North Carolina, who were both previously covered by the law, moved to enact new voter ID laws and other restrictions meant to spur voter suppression. These types of discriminatory practices fly under the radar of the federal court because they are not able hear about the local changes, let alone stop them.

Here are some ways that voter suppression has surged since this ruling:

  • Polling Place Closures
    • Between 2012 and 2018, there were 1,688 polling place closures in states that were covered by section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. In the video I embedded below, the New York Times team details the discriminatory practices that Georgia uses to suppress their black voters. In the video, in a predominately black area, a man had to wait 7 hours, 45 minutes, and 13 seconds just to vote. Comparatively, a polling place in a predominately white, suburban area had to wait 20 minutes to vote.
  • Voter ID Laws
    • In every state that were restricted before, Black and Latinx voters were more likely not to have a government issued photo ID, which is why Republicans are pushing for stricter voter ID laws.
  • Proof of Citizenship

LET AMERICA BE AMERICA AGAIN – LANGSTON HUGHES

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There's never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this "homeland of the free.")

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one's own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I'm the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That's made America the land it has become.
O, I'm the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home—
For I'm the one who left dark Ireland's shore,
And Poland's plain, and England's grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa's strand I came
To build a "homeland of the free."

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we've dreamed
And all the songs we've sung
And all the hopes we've held
And all the flags we've hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that's almost dead today.

O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that's mine—the poor man's, Indian's, Negro's, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people's lives,
We must take back our land again,
America!

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!

LANGSTON HUGHES

Langston Hughes | Biography & Facts | Britannica
Langston Hughes; picture credits: Britannica

To my mind, it is the duty of the younger Negro artist, if he accepts any duties at all from outsiders, to change through the force of his art that old whispering ‘I want to be white,’ hidden in the aspirations of his people, to ‘Why should I want to be white? I am a Negro—and beautiful!’

Langston Hughes (1902-1967)

Brief Biography of Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes, born James Mercer Langston Hughes was born February 1, 1902, in Joplin Missouri. He is an American poet that is most known as the central figure in the Harlem Renaissance—an intellectual, artistic, and cultural explosion of African American that took place in Harlem, New York. Hughes sought to portray the joys and hardships of working-class black lives, avoiding the idealization and negative stereotypes that it typically connotes to.

WHITE AUSTRALIA POLICY

White Australia policy | National Museum of Australia
Brass “White Australia” protection badge, 1906; source: National Museum of Australia

White Australia policy, formally known as the Immigration Restriction Act of 1901, effectively stopped all non-European immigration into Australia.

“That end, put in plain and unequivocal terms… means the prohibition of all alien coloured immigration, and more, it means at the earliest time, by reasonable and just means, the deportation or reduction of the number of aliens now in our midst. The two things go hand in hand, and are the necessary complement of a single police – the policy of securing a ‘white Australia.'”

This, alongside other policies discriminating against BIPOC, developed from the racist ideas and criticisms against non-white groups that generally depicted those groups as less advanced than white people in all ways, especially morally and intellectually. This idea primarily aimed at people of Asian descent but applied to all BIPOC, including Indigenous Australians. Ironically, Australia saw itself as a utopia and a working man’s paradise. Thus, they aimed to attract a well-paid, male, white, and skilled labor force to uphold this image. Consequently, BIPOC and even working women were seen as a threat to this ideal and would be paid less.

The Immigration Restrication Act gave immigration officers the power to make any non-European migrant sit a 50 word dictation test. Since the language chosen for the dictation test was chosen by the immigration officer, it was easy to ensure failure for all migrants deemed undesirable. For example, a South Asian that knows English could be given a test in French, German, or, if need be, Lithuanian. The test was administered 1359 times prior to 1909, and only 52 people were granted entry to Australia. After 1909, not one migrant that was forced to take the test passed.

These policies would continue with full fervor until the late 1940s. After the Second World War, Arthur Calwell, the Chifley government’s immigration minister, started to relax the policy to allow refugees to come to Australia. However, the majority of the refugees reflected the White Australia ideal with only limited numbers of migrants from other backgrounds. In the 1970s, the Whitlam government completely eliminated the acts with the introduction of policies like the Racial Discrimination Act of 1975.

RBG

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies of metastatic pancreatic  cancer at 87 - The Boston Globe
Ruth Bader Ginsburg; source The Boston Globe

Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1933-2020); rest in power

Yesterday marks a tragic event as Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg lost her battle to cancer. Ruth Bader Ginsburg was an advocate for gender equality. She was rejected as a Supreme Court clerk despite going to two of the finest law schools and having ringing recommendation, because she was a woman. She never gave up. Ten years later, she sent her first brief to the Supreme Court. She is the reason why the Supreme Court had struck down a state law based on gender discrimination for the first time. She was the second woman to ever be confirmed to the court. She is one of their most prominent members as she has served 27 years on the nation’s highest court. Throughout her legal career, she was an advocate for the advancement of gender equality and women’s rights, including woman’s right to reproductive health decisions. RBG’s legacy will live on forever as a fighter. Despite not even being considered for the Supreme Court clerk, she persevered and eventually became one of the members on the nation’s highest court. Despite struggling through five bouts of cancer: colon cancer in 1999, pancreatic cancer in 2009, lung cancer in 2018, and pancreatic cancer again in 2019, she still served on the court and lived to the old age of 87. RBG will live on forever as a feminist and an advocate for the people.

ODE TO THE ONLY BLACK KID IN THE CLASS – CLINT SMITH III

You, it seems,
are the manifestion
of several lifetimes
of toil. Brown v. Board
in the flesh. Most days
the classroom feels 
like an antechamber. 
You are deemed expert
on all things Morrison,
King, Malcolm, Rosa. 
Hell, weren't you sitting 
on that bus, too?
You are everybody's 
best friend 
until you are not. 
Hip-hop lyricologist. 
Presumed athlete. 
Free & Reduced sideshow. 
Exception & caricature.
Too black & too white
all at once. If you are successful
it is because of affirmative action. 
If you fail it is because
you were destined to. 
You are invisible until 
they turn on the Friday
night lights. Here you are —
star before they render
you asteroid. Before they
watch you turn to dust. 

An Update

Hi everybody!

If you haven’t noticed, I haven’t been as active as I usually am on this blog. This is because my school has started back up again, and I am swamped with homework and deadlines. However, I will make it my mission to have one post up each week! My posting date will be Wednesday at 3 p.m. If you have any requests for topics, please leave them in the comments!

If you want to explore more about Black History and Literature, click here to access a google drive full of documents covering topics from Afrofuturism to Black Feminism!