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.

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.

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!

BLACK WOMEN I WISH I LEARNED ABOUT IN SCIENCE CLASS

Let’s be real, students are continuously lectured on the groundbreaking experiments and discoveries that white men have made. Black women, particularly Black woman in STEM, aren’t given the recognition and honor that they deserve. This is why I have created this post to honor the Black women who have impacted and shaped medicine/science.

Dr. Gladys West

Image result for dr gladys west
Dr. Gladys West, an American mathematician. The hidden figure behind the GPS; 1930-?

Dr. Gladys West is an American mathematician known for her contributions in a device that is essential to everybody all over the world: the GPS. Prior to her mathematical model of the earth, the precise measurement of distances over the Earth’s surface was nearly impossible. The imperfect shape of the earth and the variation of sea levels make calculating these distances challenging. Dr. West used the information from satellites to refine an increasingly detailed and accurate mathematical model of the actual shape of the earth, a “geoid.” Her work wasn’t officially recognized until early 2018 when the United States Military recognized her in a press release issued by the Air Force Space Command. She was later commended by the Virginia State Senate and inducted into the Air Force Space and Missile Pioneers Hall of Fame.

Katherine Johnson

Katherine Johnson - Wikipedia
Katherine Johnson 1918-2020

Katherine Johnson was a person who pushed the limits. Despite being both African-American and a female, she excelled both academically (graduating with highest honors and one of three black students to be integrated into West Virginia’s graduate school) and in her workplace (NASA, referred to as NACA at the time). In 1962, the United States decided to send people to the moon; Johnson was one of the members on the team that figured out the calculations and math surrounding the trip. Johnson figured out the paths for the spacecraft to orbit Earth and to land on the moon. Her calculations of orbital mechanics were critical to the success of the first and subsequent U.S. crewed spaceflights.

Henrietta Lacks

Henrietta Lacks and Her Remarkable Cells Will Finally See Some ...
Henrietta Lacks circa 1945-1951; pic creds. The Wall Street Journal; 1920-1951

Henrietta Lacks visited The Johns Hopkins Hospital, one of only a few hospitals that treated poor African-Americans, in 1951 due to vaginal bleeding. Upon examination, the doctor discovered a large, malignant tumor on her cervix and immediately began radium treatment on her. As standard procedure, they got a sample of her cancer cells and sent it to another doctor, Dr. George Gey. Typically, each sample quickly dies in Gey’s lab. However, Lacks’ cells doubled every 20 to 24 hours. Today, these cells—nicknamed “HeLa cells”— are used in a variety of ways including studying the effects of toxins, drugs, hormones without experimenting on humans. Her cells were the first immortal human cells ever grown in culture. They were essential to developing the polio vaccine and went up in the first space missions to see what would happen to cells in zero gravity. Between the years 1953-2018, HeLa cells have been used by researchers from 142 countries and in 110,000 publications.

Dr. Angella Dorothea Ferguson

Dr. Angella Dorothea Ferguson; 1925-?

Dr. Angella Ferguson is an American pediatrician known for her groundbreaking research on sickle cell anemia, a hereditary disease that causes improper folding of red blood cells. The folding results in improper blood flow to organs and deprive the affected organs of blood and oxygen. Dr. Ferguson’s research focused on the development of the sickle cell disease among African American infants. She developed a blood test to detect sickle cell at birth which eventually became the standard for forty U.S. states by 2010. Her research set the guidelines on how to diagnose and treat sickle cell anemia.

Alice Ball

Alice Ball - Death, Facts & Leprosy - Biography
Alice Ball; 1892-1916

Alice Augusta Ball was an American chemist who developed the “Ball Method,” the most effective treatment for leprosy at the age of 23. In 1915, an infection with leprosy—a chronic disease causing skin lesions and nerve damage—was a death sentence. If infected, patients were commonly sent into mandatory quarantine in “leper colonies,” never to return. Prior to the Ball Method, a somewhat-effective treatment for leprosy was the use of an oil extracted from the chaulmoogra tree. However, that oil wasn’t readily water soluble, making it difficult for the human body to absorb. Ball was able to discover a method for extracting compounds from the oil and modifying them to become more soluble (ester ethyl form) which led to the development of an injectable treatment for leprosy.

THE RACIST HISTORY OF THE AMERICAN POLICE

History of police in the US: How policing has evolved since the ...
The evolution of a police officer. Picture creds: Bettman & Anadolu Agency/ Getty

When people say abolish the police or ACAB, it’s necessary to know why exactly they are saying this. You might say, “but not all cops…” However, this is not what they are referring to. Rather, they are referring to the fact that cops uphold a racist and corrupt system that should be changed and abolished in order to create a new one.

The American police originally started as slave patrols and has since evolved into the American police force that we know today. It has set its foundation as racist and broken. It was created to protect white wealth at the expense of Black people, immigrants, and minorities. In the South, after slavery was abolished and slave patrols became uncommon, police took on new forms such as sheriffs who enforced segregation or groups like the KKK. In the North, police were used to control the increasing numbers of immigrant workers and would block labor strikes to suppress poor Americans.

In the 1800s, centralized white, male police departments formed in big cities like Boston, NYC, and Chicago. Springing from these police departments were patrols like Mounted Guards (now the Border Patrol) who maintained minority quotas and prevented illegal crossings. This was due to the increasing fear of labor uprisings and xenophobia. During Jim Crow, the police would enforce laws called “Black Codes” which upheld racism and segregation. The police would suppress protests during the Civil Rights movement, much like what they are doing right now. Black Americans would protest police abuse and racial profiling and would be met with violence–tear gas, high pressure hoses, and attack dogs.

Now, you might be wondering, would abolishing the police actually work? It has before! Several cities like Durham have implemented successful no-cop zones and harm-free zones where communities self-protect. Police abolition is not a new idea. It has been around since the 18th century. Additionally, the USA today spends approximately $100 billion a year on policing and a further $80 billion on incarceration. Defunding the police could result in more focus on education and health.

If you are still on the edge, I have included a story that I found on twitter about the corrupt police system. Adrian Schoolcraft went into the police force because he thought that he, along with the other police, would make the world a better place. So when he realized that some of his colleagues were lying and fudging numbers in order to meet their quotas, he reported them to his higher ups. The higher ups responded by saying that if he didn’t like it, then he could find a different job. Schoolcraft woke up on October 31, 2009 to the NYPD entering his home and forcibly interring him into a mental hospital. After he was discharged, he released the tapes of the conversations he overhead by officers about the faulty arrests, the clear issues in stop and frisk, and the general corruption of the NYPD. The Village Voice published them in their series “The NYPD Tapes.” The good cops are otracised, abused, and kidnapped by the “bad apples.”

https://www.villagevoice.com/2010/05/04/the-nypd-tapes-inside-bed-stuys-81st-precinct/

WHAT IS HAPPENING TO THE USPS?

Currently, the USPS is facing a huge financial crisis. To save its services and continue delivering the mail throughout the country, the agency has asked Congress for $89 billion. The Democrats want to give the USPS money; however, the Trump administration and Republicans have blocked them in hopes to privatize the agency. Privatizing the postal service would result in an increase in shipping prices and hurt small businesses. Another reason for this block is a way for the Trump administration to increase the chance of Trump’s reelection. Among those who say they will vote by mail, 81% support Biden and 19% support Trump.

The USPS is an essential part of the United States’ infrastructure. It is the most popular government agency and employs 600,000 people. In addition, it is the most cost-efficient way to send packages and letters, with one letter costing only 55 cents. If the USPS is forced to close down, it doesn’t only mean 600,000 people are out of work. As former President Barack Obama said, “Everyone depends on the USPS. Seniors for their Social Security, veterans for their prescriptions, small businesses trying to keep their doors open. They can’t be collateral damage for an administration more concerned with suppressing the vote than suppressing a virus.” Also, the postal service is one of the largest employers of veterans in the country, employing more than 97,000, employing three times their share of the national workforce.

The USPS does not receive tax dollars for operating expenses. It solely relies on the sale of postage, products and services to fund its operations. To help fund the USPS, I encourage you to buy stamps and send letters to people you love and can’t see because of the pandemic. Also, text “USPS” to 50409 and a letter will be generated to your local reps urging them to save the post office. Please help the USPS! It not only encourages the chances of a fair election, but also helps the majority of Americans that use the USPS for medications/prescriptions, taxes, Social Security, and other miscellaneous things.

WHY CAN’T WE SUE THE POLICE?

Constantly, we see news articles of members of the police force doing illegal acts and committing crimes, yet they are never persecuted and charged. This is because of Qualified Immunity. Qualified Immunity is a legal doctrine that makes it difficult and almost impossible to hold police officers accountable for crimes.

So, what does it do?

“Qualified Immunity is a judicially created doctrine that shields government officials from being held personally liable for constitutional violations-like the right to be free from excessive police force- for money damages under federal law so long as the officials did not violate “clearly established” law. To determine if the law was “clearly established,” the court turns to an already existing judicial decision with similar facts. As a result, says Julian Sanchez, during the first time around, “the right violated won’t be ‘clearly established,’ and the official that was responsible will have qualified immunity. This means that the initial person will not have any say because of qualified immunity and that the officer will only be charged if that instance would happen again. HOWEVER, during courts, one can allege any sort of difference between the current case and the past case. One of the differences that was used in court was the numeric distance between the police officer and the victim. Another was the location of the crime. Therefore, since there hadn’t been a “clearly established” law, the police officer would be protected by qualified immunity.

The Supreme Court invented qualified immunity in 1967. They described it as a modest exception for public officials who acted in “good faith” and believed that their conduct was authorized by law. So, in the case of a court, if the police officer can convince the judge that he had been acting with “good intentions,” he or she would not suffer any consequences.

An example of a case of qualified immunity took place during April 2013. “Police officers in Texas responded to a dispatch describing a Black man in a brown shirt, who was firing his gun at mailboxes in a residential neighborhood. When the officers arrived, the man fired his gun in their direction and then hid himself from view. The officers set up a defensive position behind three vehicles and began ordering the man to put his gun down. A few minutes later, the officers saw Gabriel Winzer, a mentally impaired 25-year-old riding a bicycle, wearing a blue shirt, and carrying a toy gun in his belt. Within six seconds of spotting him, the officers shot at Winzer 17 times, chased him down, and tased him. He died at the scene. The officers later claimed that they shot Winzer because they feared for their lives.

As in Brooks’s case, a federal appeals court concluded that the officers violated Winzer’s constitutional rights by using deadly force against him when he posed no threat to anyone. But nonetheless, according to the court, the officers were entitled to qualified immunity. To support that conclusion, the court offered one meager sentence of analysis: “We cannot conclude that Gabriel’s right to be free from excessive force was clearly established here.””

For more information about qualified immunity, I will be attaching some links and a helpful video. To help abolish qualified immunity, please sign this petition. Additionally, please support the Ending Qualified Immunity Act, proposed by Justin Amash (L-Michigan) and Ayanna Pressley (D-Massachusetts). When Amash announced the bill, he explained:

“This week, I am introducing the Ending Qualified Immunity Act to eliminate qualified immunity and restore Americans’ ability to obtain relief when police officers violate their constitutionally secured rights. The brutal killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police is merely the latest in a long line of incidents of egregious police misconduct. This pattern continues because police are legally, politically, and culturally insulated from consequences for violating the rights of the people whom they have sworn to serve. That must change so that these incidents of brutality stop happening.”

LINKS:

https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/usa-police-immunity-scotus/

Originally published July 15

WHAT IS THE SCHOOL-TO-PRISON PIPELINE?

In my small community, I believed that the police were good guys. When I needed them, they came. I wasn’t scared. Then, I thought that they were going to protect me and help my family out. Now, this is the privilege that I have as I am not a black person. Through videos, I have seen the precautions that black people have to take in the face of the police. Imagine being a member of the black community and having to see the police every day at your school. Living every day in fear and on edge as you go to and from school and mind your own business. After the Columbine High School massacre and the numerous school shootings that have happened since, police officers have become more and more common on school grounds.

Police in schools fuel the school-to-prison pipeline and take away valuable funding for educational resources. The school-to-prison pipeline is the phenomenon where schools funnel Black and brown students, and students with disabilities, into the criminal justice. This phenomenon can start as early as preschool where minorities (specifically Black and children with disabilities) are more likely to be suspended or expelled than white students. According to the Education Department’s office for Civil Rights, Black students are three times more likely to be expelled than white students. In general, students disciplined by police in schools are more likely to end up in the criminal justice system.

Some of the components of the school-to-prison pipeline are zero-tolerance policies – strict policies that criminalize minor infractions and increase the number of suspensions and expulsions – and School Resource Officers (SROs) – police officers stationed in schools who can make in-school arrests and provide disciplinary action on behalf of administrators. THIS IS NOT THE WAY TO HELP KIDS! Based on studies, zero-tolerance policies have often been ineffective in preventing crime and violence, and SROs are seen criminalizing and policing students instead of protecting them. So, why is the government spending its money on the police and prisons and not schools? Instead, we should filter the money from the police to education! Students should not be scared and criminalized at schools! They should be supported by guidance counselors and the staff!

So, how can we help?

  1. Demand your local school district end contracts with police departments
  2. Demand that your mayor and city council defund the police and invest in schools, especially in poor communities of color
  3. Demand that your state and federal representatives end discriminatory zero-tolerance policies.
  4. VOTE for candidates that prioritize vulnerable students and have explicit plans for investing in and supporting underfunded schools

Here are some facts:

  • 1.7 million students are in schools with cops, but no counselors.
  • 3 million students are in schools with cops, but no nurses.
  • 6 million students are in schools with cops, but no school psychologists.
  • 10 million students are in schools with cops, but no social workers.

FUND EDUCATION NOT THE POLICE

Originally published July 3

WHAT IS BLACKFACE?

Recently, a lot of celebrities and other people of power have been called out for their use of cultural appropriation, specifically blackface or, in the case of Bon Appetit’s ex-editor-in-chief, brownface. Cultural appropriation, sometimes called cultural misappropriation, is the “adoption or co-opting, usually without acknowledgment, of cultural identity markers associated with or originating in minority communities by people or communities with a relatively privileged status.” In media and mainstream culture, it seems that cultural appropriation runs rampant especially in the trends that we see. For example, the large hoop earrings seen on celebrities had been adopted from African culture. In the case of blackface, white people paint their faces black to “dress up” as black people. This had started nearly 200 years ago when white people painted their faces to mock enslaved Africans in minstrel shows (like a comic skit). It didn’t stop there. White performers would put on tattered clothes (to symbolize the poor-ness of black people) and exaggerated their features to look stereotypically “black.” This included using burnt cork and grease paint or shoe polish to darken their skin and red or white makeup to exaggerate their lips. They would also wear wooly wigs. In the shows, they would depict the enslaved Africans as lazy, ignorant, and cowardly. These performances were not only demeaning and hurtful to the black community, but also perpetuated inaccurate stereotypes of the black community.

The most popular blackface character was “Jim Crow.” The character was created by a white entertainer, and he would perform a song and dance act that was supposedly taught to him by a slave. Most might recognize the name “Jim Crow” because of its association with the laws that segregated, demeaned, and denied blacks basic human rights primarily from the 1870s to the 1960s (90 years!). Through these laws, it solidified the racial hierarchy throughout the USA as it ensured that the black community was forever on the bottom. These laws included segregating schools, redlining, segregating public facilities (black people would have to use the worse facilities where it was not well-kept, smaller, and older), segregating the bus, etc. Furthermore, intermarriage was prohibited.

The influence of the minstrel shows extended its way into media like movies where everyday American actors like Judy Garland, Shirley Temple, and Fred Astaire put on blackface in movies. Even black performers put on blackface, as they said it was the only way the could work. White audiences weren’t interested in watching black actors do anything but act foolish on stage, perpetuating the stereotype further. Furthermore, the only depiction of black life that white audiences saw was in minstrel shows. Therefore, by presenting enslaved Africans as the butt of jokes, it desensitized white Americans to the horrors of slavery.

Nowadays, as people are accused of blackface, they blame it on their own ignorance. However, with access to technology and information, we cannot blame things on our own ignorance and must own up to our mistakes. I encourage all of my readers to CALL PEOPLE OUT IF THEY’RE ARE DOING BLACKFACE OR ANYTHING DEMEANING TO ANOTHER RACE. RACISM IS NEVER OKAY!

While I’m uncomfortable with posting this image on my site, I think it serves as a way to further educate my readers as it shows how the media had portrayed the minstrel shows and blackface. As you can see, they have exaggerated the person’s features using makeup to signify a “stereotypical black man.”

Turkey in the Straw Sheet Music
A poster used to advertise a minstrel show

Originally published July 3

WHAT IS JUNETEENTH?

Today, June 19th, 2020, marks the 155th anniversary of Juneteenth. You might ask, “What is Juneteenth?” To be honest, I had never heard of the holiday until I questioned why it was in my calendar. And that right there is an act of privilege that I have, to be able to be unaware about Juneteenth which celebrates the liberation and end of slavery in the United States when I am a United States citizen. But, I am educating myself and it is a process that will never be finished

Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. It dates back to June 19th, 1865 when Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free, two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation (January 1, 1863). General Granger read to the people of Texas General Order Number 3:

“The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired laborer.”

In response to this news, people were shocked but also jubilant. Though many stayed to see how the new employer to employee relationship unfolded, many set off North or to neighboring states to see family. Then, the Juneteenth celebration was a time for reassuring each other, for praying, and for gathering remaining family members. Now, many former slaves and descendants make an annual pilgrimage back to Galveston on this date. There are a range of activities that you can do today to celebrate Juneteenth. However, I would like to caution all of you to not do anything rash because of the pandemic still around. So, here are some ways to celebrate Black Joy on Juneteenth:

  1. Buy artwork from a Black artist. This could come in the form of tapestries, clothing, or music.
  2. Read and discuss articles from The Root’s Black Excellence column
  3. Order takeout from a Black owned restaurant
  4. Venmo individual Black people doing good work in their community
  5. Listen to playlists and podcasts featured in Spotify’s ‘Black History is Now’ campaign
  6. Read a book by a Black author that’s main subject area is not racism.
  7. Watch a show or movie that has Black Joy. Some shows/movies on Netflix are #BlackAF, About The Washingtons, All American, Cheer, Dear White People, and many more.

Over the years, Juneteenth celebrations have declined which was a consequence of economic and cultural forces. Textbooks and classroom education didn’t cover the topic of slavery in detail and proclaimed that the Emancipation Proclamation was the only thing that signaled the ending of slavery. However, Juneteenth saw a resurgence of celebrations during the Civil Rights Movement. Today, we must continue in stride and celebrate Juneteenth and with it, African American freedom and achievement.

Originally published June 19