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

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.

THE OTHER AMERICA – MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.

In this speech, Martin Luther King Jr. addresses the two Americas: one America where the milk of prosperity and the honey of opportunity flows through the streets like water in a river; where no one is hungry, no one is oppressed, and everybody’s needs are met, mentally and physically. The other America tragically also exists. In this other America, “millions of work-starved men walk the streets daily in search for jobs that do not exist. In this America, millions of people find themselves living in rat-infested, vermin-filled slums. In this America people are poor by the millions. They find themselves perishing on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.

America is considered the “mixing pot” where people of all cultures live. However, the vast majority of BIPOC live in the “other America.” King specifically describes black people. Black people live in “a ghetto of race, a ghetto of poverty, a ghetto of human misery.” The Civil Rights Movement aims to deal with the division of the Americas, trying to mend America so it can be one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. As of 1967 (when King had said this speech), America had overcome many struggles in the fight for equality: legal segregation (getting rid of Jim Crow laws). But, they are facing their biggest challenge now: genuine equality. Black people and other minorities (specifically Indigenous and Hispanic people) still live in under served/low-income areas because of redlining that had taken place 50+ years ago. At the time of King’s speech, black people had an unemployment rate more than double that of the nation’s unemployment rate. America has made advances in racial justice and racial equality, but it has also taken steps backward.

Thus, we are met with riots to enforce the changes that the people want. Riots do not appear out of thin air, rather they are the result of continued oppression and the language of the unheard. “And what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the Black poor has worsened over the last few years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice, equality, and humanity… Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention.”

A/N: I only took extracts from the speech. I have attached the speech transcript here.

MINORITY HEALTH AND COLORECTAL CANCER

In light of the death of Chadwick Boseman, a black man most famously known for his role in Black Panther and other Marvel movies (may he rest in power), we must realize the racial disparities that occur in colon cancer. Colon cancer is the third-most common cancer in all adults in the USA. Colorectal cancer affects men and women and impacts people of all nationalities and ethnic groups. However, they are not impacted equally.

African Americans

  • 15 to 20% more likely to die from the disease than patients of any other race
  • higher chance of being diagnosed at a later stage and with a higher morality rate
  • recommended to be screened at 45 instead of 50 because of genetic factors (“African Americans with colorectal cancer are more likely to cope with an aggressive subtype fueled by a mutation in the KRAS gene, which drives cancer growth )
  • affected by socioeconomic barriers (low income, difficult to find transportation, lack of health insurance, lack of medical literacy, and access to care)

Asian Americans

  • 52% of Asian American adults between 50-75 have not been screening for colorectal cancer
  • colorectal cancer is the 2nd most common cancer in Asian Americans
  • risk of colorectal cancer increases greatly upon immigration to the United States
  • many Asian Americans are unfamiliar with colorectal cancer as disease rates in native countries are very low

Hispanics/Latinx

  • 47% of Hispanic adults between 50-75 have not been screening for colorectal cancer
  • also affected by socioeconomic barriers
  • cultural barriers (misconceptions about western medicine, language barrier in communicating with medical personnel)
  • talking about disease and death is culturally taboo

American Indians and Alaska Natives

  • fewer than half are current with colorectal cancer screening
  • colorectal cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer and second deadliest cancer in American Indians and Alaska Natives
  • they live in rural and isolated communities so it is hard to find screening
  • higher burden of cancer risk factors
  • socioeconomic barriers (lack of funding for tribal health clinics, high rates of poverty, lack of health insurance, etc. )

SYMPTOMS OF COLON CANCER

  • changes in bowel habits and stomach pain (diarrhea/constipation)
  • unexplained or unintentional weight loss
  • unexplained fatigue
  • anemia
  • cramping pain in the lower stomach
  • rectal bleeding with bright red blood
  • blood in the stool
  • cramps/abdominal pain

Symptoms of colon cancer mimic other GI disorders, so doctors are less likely to screen patients under 50 with these symptoms. If you have access to healthcare and you are experiencing any of these conditions, please see a doctor!

In honor of Chadwick Boseman, please consider donating to organizations like the Colon Cancer Coalition that raises awareness for early colon cancer detection and effective treatment for colon cancer patients.

sources:

https://www.inovanewsroom.org/featured-posts/2020/02/colon-cancer-and-the-black-community/

BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS TO EDUCATE

Books are a form of political action. Books are knowledge. Books are reflection. Books change your mind.

Toni Morrison

Here are some book recommendations that focus on the subject of Black Lives Matter and Black History.

*note I have taken the summaries from websites like goodreads and amazon

  • Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption – Bryan Stevenson

Bryan Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system. One of his first cases was that of Walter McMillian, a young man who was sentenced to die for a notorious murder he insisted he didn’t commit. The case drew Bryan into a tangle of conspiracy, political machination, and legal brinksmanship—and transformed his understanding of mercy and justice forever.

This book has been turned into a film, and you can watch the trailer here.

  • When They Call You A Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter MemoirPatrisse Khan-Cullors

A poetic and powerful memoir about what it means to be a Black woman in America—and the co-founding of a movement that demands justice for all in the land of the free.

Raised by a single mother in an impoverished neighborhood in Los Angeles, Patrisse Khan-Cullors experienced firsthand the prejudice and persecution Black Americans endure at the hands of law enforcement. For Patrisse, the most vulnerable people in the country are Black people. Deliberately and ruthlessly targeted by a criminal justice system serving a white privilege agenda, Black people are subjected to unjustifiable racial profiling and police brutality. In 2013, when Trayvon Martin’s killer went free, Patrisse’s outrage led her to co-found Black Lives Matter with Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi.

Condemned as terrorists and as a threat to America, these loving women founded a hashtag that birthed the movement to demand accountability from the authorities who continually turn a blind eye to the injustices inflicted upon people of Black and Brown skin.

Championing human rights in the face of violent racism, Patrisse is a survivor. She transformed her personal pain into political power, giving voice to a people suffering in equality and a movement fueled by her strength and love to tell the country—and the world—that Black Lives Matter.

  • An American Marriage – Tayari Jones

Newlyweds, Celestial and Roy, are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive and she is artist on the brink of an exciting career. They are settling into the routine of their life together, when they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit. Though fiercely independent, Celestial finds herself bereft and unmoored, taking comfort in Andre, her childhood friend, and best man at their wedding. As Roy’s time in prison passes, she is unable to hold on to the love that has been her center. After five years, Roy’s conviction is suddenly overturned, and he returns to Atlanta ready to resume their life together.
This stirring love story is a deeply insightful look into the hearts and minds of three people who are at once bound and separated by forces beyond their control. An American Marriage is a masterpiece of storytelling, an intimate look into the souls of people who must reckon with the past while moving forward- with hope and pain- into the future.

  • The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this is a powerful and gripping YA novel about one girl’s struggle for justice.

This book has also been turned into a movie. You can watch the trailer here.