The “Strong” Black Woman

By Keyonna Murray

You saw her in the historical portrayals of sweet, nurturing housemaids who dedicated the majority of their physical and emotional resources to caring for wealthy white families.

She may have been depicted as the tough-as-nails activist who marched against the iron fist of an oppressive government during the civil rights movement of the mid-20th century.

She might be an unbreakable single mom, the witty partner-in-crime who always offers a shoulder on which to cry, or the career-minded woman with barely enough time or space for herself.

To many, this may seem like a positive thing. Independence and self-reliance have evolved to be regarded as cornerstone values of the individualistic Western world. If black women frequently measure up in this area, wouldn’t that be an advantage for them?  This is not the case if this role is one that’s forced.

The media plays a significant part in shaping the way we, as individuals view ourselves, our peers, and the world at large. As such, the messages that are communicated should be delivered with care. That being said, this is often not the case, and groups of people with a wide range of personalities and complexities are reduced to a narrow set of culturally acceptable characteristics. For years, this has been the illustration of black women. Some of us black women enjoy soccer and basketball. Some of us like to read, or are interested in anime. Others may love makeup and fashion. We might enjoy playing musical instruments, both contemporary and hip-hop dance styles, or speech and debate. Many black women might enjoy a mixture of these things.

Some black women are more on the delicate side, and feel supported when they know they have a solid network on which to depend. Black women may be introverted, and prefer the peace of mind that solitude brings. They can be givers, who find the most complete joy in encouraging others. They also can indeed be “strong,” in the conventional sense of the word. The point is, that just like with every race, this varies by the individual. Forcing a particular demographic to adhere to an identity – one that, quite frankly, works to protect white fragility and prevent conscious efforts to break down barriers and acknowledge the many ways that systemic racism makes people suffer – is both deeply unfair and incredibly unsustainable. Not only that, but it can have lifelong consequences.

The toll of being a black woman can be heavy in nearly every aspect of life. For example, the average white household is 13 times wealthier than black households. Additionally, despite having some of the highest rates of college enrollment, the pay gap between black women and white men was found to increase with education level. It is also important to note the rising need for a focus on mental wellness within the black community; this is evidenced by rising cases of serious mental illnesses as well as the intersection of socioeconomic status and mental health declineDespite being less likely to die to suicide, black Americans are more likely than their white peers to attempt suicide.

Even in healthcare, the treatment of black women is astonishing: black women are reportedly 40 percent less likely to receive adequate treatment for acute pain. This particular phenomenon can be traced all the way back to slavery; for example, Dr. James Marion Sims was infamous for the surgeries he conducted on his black female patients without the use of anesthesia.

This past year showcased more than ever just how deadly institutionalized – and quite frankly, normalized – racism can have on an entire demographic. From the disproportionate amount of black Americans who died of coronavirus to the senseless murder of Breonna Taylor, there is no room for apathy. There is no more time to rely on an outdated stereotype as justification for the unjustifiable. America can do better, and as such must be held to a higher standard than ever before.

This is not to say that black women are not incredibly strong and powerful. Being a black woman myself, I can testify firsthand to the uniquely resilient nature of the community in which I am so grateful to be counted. That being said, true allyship requires empathy, which often entails being willing to enter a space one doesn’t need to occupy for the sake of showing support. 

Plenty of “positive” traits ascribed to marginalized populations are really just thinly veiled microaggressions, and ultimately further solidify the reigning influence of white supremacy. It creates barriers that are often continually enforced by individuals on both sides of the wall. For those in power, this prevents a need to reflect; while for groups being impacted, it can create an illusion that adherence to such an ideal will lead to social capital.

It’s time to break this wall down. There is a grey area between completely ignoring the challenges of a person and patronizing them; the medium between the two is where true, genuine support can flourish.  For black women, our voices are often not heard enough for others to find the middle ground. However, we are speaking up.

We will not accept being the backs that carry the burden of broken promises. We will no longer silently tolerate hate speech, disrespect, and inability to feel physically or emotionally safe in our politically polarized home in order to maintain a badge of strength that we were given no option but to receive.

We are just as worthy of being protected, supported, and cared for. Because we are women who know our worth.

And if America wishes to one day live up to its name, then society will treat our endurance not as a devaluing of our femininity, but rather an enhancement of it – and shift the narrative so that our daughters can grow up in a world where the definition of “womanhood” is no longer dependent on melanin.

A Wednesday in January

By Qur’an Hansford

For me, it was a random Wednesday in January. I had been taking a winter course that met every day for three hours. My day had been consumed with academia, therefore, my social media was dormant. I was in for a big surprise.

On January 6, not even a week into the new year, our political lifestyle took an unexpected turn for the worst. 

Two runoff elections in Georgia that would determine control of the Senate still had not been decided as the day turned into Wednesday. A joint session of Congress convened to certify Joe Biden’s electoral-vote win while thousands gathered on The National Mall in support of former President Trump, who continued to falsify the claim that the election was stolen from him, according to the Washington Post.

According to Cornell Law School, an insurrection is defined as someone or someones who incites, sets on foot, assists, or engages in any rebellion or insurrection against the authority of the United States or the laws thereof, or gives aid or comfort thereto. 

On this “random” Wednesday in January, Trump supporters, Proud Boys, Republican Party officials, GOP political donors, far-right militants, white supremacists, off-duty police, members of the military, even adherents of the QAnon myth – those that believe that the government is secretly controlled by a cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophile cannibals – were all in attendance. 

These various groups, some with different agendas, all gathered at the Capitol. Around 1:30 in the afternoon, the crowd outside the building grew larger, eventually overtaking Capitol Police and making their way up the steps, some even climbed the capitol wall (oh, the irony.)

The world was watching it happen — live.

This editorial is not a recap of that Wednesday afternoon in January, but more of an explanation as to why it happened. 

What is the greatest threat to democracy? I believe there are a plethora of threats to democracy: miseducation, racism, classism and capitalism, to name a few. But, the biggest threat to democracy is immorality. None of these “-isms” would exist without the wrongful and unethical ideologies of those who perpetrate them. 

This “random” Wednesday in January was not so random after all. In fact, on Dec. 21, writer and political analyst Arieh Kovler tweeted: “On January 6, armed Trumpist militias will be rallying in DC, at Trump’s orders. It’s highly likely that they’ll try to storm the Capitol after it certifies Joe Biden’s win. I don’t think this has sunk in yet.”

How didn’t anyone know? Insurrectionists with “January 6” t-shirts and riot gear, even the infamous man with the 27-inch nylon tactical restraints, typically used to immobilize large numbers of prisoners or hostages, this was a premeditated mission. So, perhaps January 6 was a random Wednesday for most of America, but for those at the Capitol that day, it was a new beginning. 

I think it is rather difficult to not point out the lack of urgency from law enforcement when dealing with violent protesters. The difference in police response at the Capitol versus any Black Lives Matter protest is comical yet repulsing, obvious yet discreet, typical yet daunting. The insurrectionists roamed freely through the Capitol halls, taking selfies, stealing souvenirs, smashing doors, defacing statues and spewing sporadic calls like “Hang Mike Pence!” Many of the rioters shoved and beat officers, one of whom later died (so much for blue lives matter.) They ransacked the office of the Senate Parliamentarian, took paperwork and computers, and a rioter was even photographed with a piece of mail belonging to Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi; as if invading the Capitol was not already a big enough federal crime. The National Guard showed up a day later. 

According to the Washington Post, on the first day of June of 2020, a crowd of similar size gathered outside the White House to protest the killing of George Floyd. What were their reasons for being there? It was a call to end police brutality and racial inequity. These demonstrators were met with an army of federal agents, tear gas and rubber bullets after Donald Trump’s demand to show domination. Two demonstrations, both protesting on the symbols of democracy in the nation’s capital, will forever define Trump’s legacy.

Then President-elect (and current president) Joe Biden said that if the rioters had been a group of Black Lives Matter protesters, they would have been treated “very differently than the mob of thugs that stormed the Capitol,” he said according to the Washington Post

These “thugs” President Biden spoke of,  in fact wore a multitude of hats besides “Make America Great Again.”  A lot of the insurrectionists (as mentioned) were Republican Party officials, GOP political donors, off-duty police and members of the military. Immorality resides in many people, even in our most morally upstanding professions. We must get rid of the stereotype that white supremacists are uneducated hillbillies. They may be our real estate agents, teachers, doctors, lawyers and politicians. And this is the very thing that feeds directly into the systemic racism in our society today.

When I saw that the confederate flag entered the capitol for the first time in 150 years since the end of the Civil War, I knew their agenda was not liberty or democracy and not equality. Just months after statues of Confederate leaders and racist figures were removed or torn down around the world, a man carried the emblem of racism through the Ohio Clock corridor, past a portrait of Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts, an abolitionist. 

No more denying that “this is not who we are.” This is exactly who the United States is,  who it always has been and what it is made of. 

Was everyone at the Capitol immoral? Who’s to say? But what we do know is that immoral ideologies brought them there, whether deliberate or against their better judgement. 

I want to remind America that we must unlearn the hatred ingrained in our history and it starts with telling future generations the truth (and I mean the whole truth, plus our ugly history) of what happened on a random Wednesday in January.

Environmental Injustice in Terms of the Global Climate Crisis

By Shamiya Ford

Over the last decade, institutional prejudice and racism have grown to be a prominent topic of discussion for black and brown communities in the United States. Members from these communities, especially those of lower income, have been disproportionately affected by the structures created by this form of bigotry and hate.  Institutional prejudice and racism have allowed for the widespread circulation of prejudicial policies being integrated into our society. 

 Environmental injustice is one of the biggest issues that is arising out of the current climate crisis and social justice movements. 

In 2014, the Flint water crisis brought to attention the issue of environmental injustice in the United States. This heartbreaking incident now serves as a popular example of the effects of this normalized disregard for the quality of life of lower-income, black and brown individuals by institutions in the United States. Environmental injustice not only poses a threat to these communities,  it contributes to the overall global climate crisis. Evidence of the existence of climate change can be found in the warming of the ocean, the rise in temperature around the world, and even the number of extreme weather events that we have been experiencing for decades. NASA has provided that these are the effects of global climate change and that it is at least 95% the fault of human error and carelessness.

Environmental injustices often take the form of decreased regulation by the Environmental Protection Agency(EPA). This means that the EPA doesn’t enforce certain regulations that preserve the wellness of the environment in areas that fit the criteria for environmental discrimination. This issue now becomes a global problem because not only does this form of discrimination exist in the United States, it is also very prominent in other countries around the world. In their defense, the EPA argues that there is an issue with the redistribution of environmental risks and the costs that would stem from it.  However, this attempt at justification not only exemplifies the lack of regard for the well-being of members of certain communities,  it proves that the targeting of low-income, black and brown communities receive less regulation protection and are discriminated against by the EPA for the purpose of monetary benefit. 

 

Environmental injustice and discrimination contribute to the larger climate crisis at hand and therefore, becomes an issue that all people around the world should show more concern. These  injustices are gatekept and kept away from those who cannot afford to be eco-conscious. The inability of these communities to thrive economically adversely affects their ability to fight for their environment and to take the necessary steps to live individual environmentally-friendly lifestyles.   It is no surprise that heavily populated, urban areas have issues with environmental regulation already, due to the high volume of people in those areas.  Further lack of regard and regulation by the EPA and other institutions and agencies contributing to this crisis affects everyone on a global scale – not just black and brown individuals and communities.

 

Sources

https://www.lung.org/clean-air/outdoors/who-is-at-risk/disparities

https://www.nrdc.org/stories/flint-water-crisis-everything-you-need-know

https://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/

https://envhumanities.sites.gettysburg.edu/es225b-spring19/the-combustion-of-justice-the-placement-of-landfills-and-trash-incinerators-in-underrepresented-communities/environmental-justice/

https://e360.yale.edu/features/unequal-impact-the-deep-links-between-inequality-and-climate-change

 

Signs You’re Dealing With a Narcissist

By Rikiyah Mixson

“You’re crazy,” “You’re too emotional,” “I never said that,” “You’re a narcissist” These are some of the most common phrases narcissistic abusers use on their victims. If you are not familiar with narcissism, according to the MayoClinic.org, narcissistic personality disorder is a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others. However,  behind this mask of extreme confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism.” According to Clinical psychologist Dr. Ramani Durvasula, there are four different types of narcissists:   Malignant, grandiose, covert, and communal. 

Malignant narcissists are the most problematic type of narcissists because of their lack of empathy, self-entitlement, mean-spiritedness, and willingness to do bad things, such as lie, cheat, and steal. Their characteristics are very similar to psychopaths, but the difference is,  they only tend to feel bad if they hurt people close to them, like a family member.  Grandiose narcissists, commonly identified as the “classical” narcissists are egotistical, love attention, don’t listen to others, and are very flashy. They exhibit the characteristics many people love;  being very charming, charismatic, attractive, and well put together. In society, we associate them with success or celebrity. However, Grandiose Narcissists are easily able to manipulate the world around them. Grandiose Narcissists also lack empathy for others, are self-entitled, have a constant need for validation, are filled with rage when they are frustrated, and have a love for power, pleasure, and profit. Covert Narcissists, also described as vulnerable narcissists, often lack social skills, are very anxious, feel like life has done them wrong, and are passive-aggressive. This type of narcissism is more of a “secret” because they are often diagnosed with depression. The determining factor here is their ability to blame their mishaps on the world rather than themselves. The Communal Narcissists are very active in community service. Often, one will see them boasting about their accomplishments and have a lot of arrogance. Although they are perceived to be “good” people because of their acts of kindness, Communal Narcissists are not empathetic of those that they help. They act solely for recognition.

Social media can be a playground for narcissists. They are able to receive all the validation they need by posting attractive pictures, and are able to give them instant gratification by liking and commenting. Social media gives them the ability to create a fake persona of the person they want to be. 

Reading through the descriptions, many of you may recall some people who resemble these behaviors. I interviewed a few people about their experiences dealing with narcissists. In my first interview, I asked a woman about her relationship with her eventual ex-husband.  She referred to her marriage as her “dirty little secret” because she was unhappy in the marriage for years. It wasn’t until the 10th anniversary of their marriage that she realized her partner was a malignant narcissist. The discovery happened when she came across an article about narcissism; he fit all the descriptions. Oftentimes, she isolated herself because she felt embarrassed and weak, and even looked upon her religion to help save her marriage. In her experience of Christian marriage counseling, it was “always the women’s fault.”  She was told that if she had been more obedient,  none of this would be happening. After some time of saving up her own money and 12 years of marriage,  she decided to leave this relationship.  Although he tried to win her back with gifts, she decided to choose herself and protect her child. When I asked what advice would she give to those that felt trapped with their narcissist, she made it very clear to remember that you deserve happiness and peace, “Don’t live in victimhood. Look at the experience as a lesson for yourself and how you allow other people to treat you in the future.” 

Three of my interviewees had a similar experience with their narcissists but in friendships.  “J”, a junior student at Rider University, said she knew she was friends with a narcissistic person after three months of knowing her.  Not everyone gets lucky enough to see this “mask” of narcissists come off so early. This friend was in a relationship with her cousin, and eventually turned J’s cousin against her family.  Advice J gives to people who are in  narcissistic relationships is to “know your self-worth. You are more than what you realize and one day you will be strong enough to walk away.”

 I asked two other interviewees about the ways they have responded to narcissists in the past. One responded by saying that although it may seem bad, flip the script on the narcissists by acting in the ways that they do. This way,  they can see how they always appear.  “H”,  the other interviewee, responded to the question stating, “Yeah we all realized (the inappropriate behavior of the narcissist) but I was the one to call them out on it.”  He said there were many times that this friend would make a situation about themselves or the solution would conveniently be in  favor of the narcissist.  I asked how the narcissist reacted to him, he said “How I expected, they started to gaslight, and acted cluelessly.”

Gaslighting is a form of manipulation used by narcissists. It causes the person being manipulated to doubt their own reality and lose their own sense of perception, identity, and self-worth. (Psychology Today).  Examples of gaslighting include:

  •  blatantly lying or denying a situation, even if there is proof, words not reflecting your actions 
  • trying to convince a person that the things that are important to them are no good
  • attempting to confuse someone by belittling them then complimenting them on something else
  •  trying to downplay an issue that is big to them and not you 
  • isolating a person from others
  •  telling someone that they are crazy or making them question their own judgement. 

 In many cases, especially in dating, people find themselves trapped in a relationship with narcissists due to manipulation and love-bombing. According to Sasha Jackson, LCSW, love-bombing is “characterized by excessive attention, admiration, and affection with the goal to make the recipient feel dependent and obligated to that person.”   For instance, you meet someone that seems too good to be true. They show an extensive amount of love and attention early on; sweet messages, nice gifts, compliments, and more within a short period of knowing them. If it felt like the person was pressuring for the relationship to move fast in the early stages, chances are you were being love-bombed.  Regardless of how long the narcissistic relationationship lasts, many come to realize that the early level of love displayed never quite reaches that level of ever again.  

Victims often feel at fault for small mistakes, have a cloudy judgement, and are angry at themselves. One of the most common traits of a narcissist is that they do not apologize for hurtful behavior, instead they blame it on their victim. Narcissists tend to display controlling and manipulative behavior that is both emotional and verbally abusive. Victims of narcissism may begin to fall into “reactive abuse.” Reactive abuse is the result of gaslighting and the victim being fed up with these issues so much that they lash out on the narcissists. Since narcissists never take accountability and shift the blame on their victims for their wrongdoing, they try to make you feel like the other individual is overreacting or super dramatic.The downside to reacting to the narcissists is that they can use the reaction as proof to others and the victims themselves that they are indeed crazy.

Victims of narcissism need to know that they are not alone.  This is not your fault.  Do not blame yourself for their behavior.  Narcissists tend to project their insecurities on their victims. Forgive yourself,  you were not aware of who this person was. You are enough.  Accept who they are, focus on yourself, and not the narcissistic person.

 

Keep Families Together

Qur’an Hansford

Keep Families Together 

In June of 2018 President Donald Trump debuted his administration’s zero tolerance policy in regard to illegal border crossing. A zero tolerance policy exists to impose strict punishment for infractions of a stated rule with the intention of eliminating undesirable conduct. The undesirable conduct in this case is the influx of immigrants illegally entering the southwest border into the United States. 

Trump, as a GOP frontrunner, expressed on numerous occasions  that cracking down on immigration was at the top of his list, but this zero tolerance policy has done more than just try to cease the influx of immigrants. It has unlawfully separated families once they have entered into the United States. 

Although talk about politics is inevitable, the discussion about morals and ethics becomes rather vital. Because this matter manifests moral and ethical inhumanity there are no policies nor rules or regulations that can justify the splitting up of children and guardians. 

According to Human Rights Watch, only about half of more than 2,500 families forcibly separated as a “consequence” of the Trump’s administration’s “zero tolerance” policy are expected to be reunited by the deadline, leaving hundreds of families subjected to unexplained delays. 

Detained parents and separated children could only speak to one another if they could afford the high cost of detention phone calls. Detention phone calls cost up to five US dollars which to Americans does not seem to be much, but for people from many Latin countries whose currencies function in pesos, five US dollars can total to about 97.73 Mexian pesos for about 10 minutes with their child. 

Human Rights Watch believes that the trauma young children face in detention centers (as well as being taken from their families) can leave negative effects on the child’s emotional upbringing. Senior researcher of the US program at Human Rights Watch Clara Long said, “Detaining families just replaces one harm with another.” Immigrant families flee their countries of turmoil for a better life in the United States, land of the free, home of the brave, a country built off the backs of immigrants. 

Families and separated children are held in detention centers which according to CNN have windowless rooms in metal enclosures comparable to kennels. The US department of Health and Human services stated that personal challenges posed by psychological harms inflicted during the course of incarceration of adults have grown in the last several decades in the United States. Now imagine the same traumatic effects inflicted on adolescents for weeks, even months at a time. 

Two developmental psychologists by the name of Kathryn A. Kerns and Laura E. Brumariu conducted a study on the concept of attachment theory called “Is Insecure Parent-Child Attachment a Risk Factor for the Development of Anxiety in Childhood or Adolescence?” The article explains and exemplifies  how insecure parent-child attachment can act as a risk factor for the development of anxiety as a child or an adolescent. The two authors introduce the idea that children with an unstable attachment to their parent and/or guardian can develop internalized problems. 

“Insecure attachment itself may contribute to anxiety, but insecurely attached children also are more likely to have difficulties regulating emotions and interacting competently with peers, which may further contribute to anxiety,” according to Brumariu and Kerns. 

 Brumariu and Kerns concluded clinical disorders such as major depressive disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and personality disorder can occur primarily when insecure attachment merges with other risk factors,  such as being separated from family after fleeing an endangered country.

 Families escape their countries to find a better life in the United States illegally, perhaps because the naturalization process takes up to 10 years; most families do not have that kind of time, especially when involving children.

These children come into the United States, surrounded by strangers they do not understand because they do not speak the language, with no clue where their parents are. Insecure attachment is multiplied by three; this level of trauma at a young age can cause detrimental development effects on a child’s upbringing.  

The ongoing hyperbole the president instilled into the minds of the American people that immigrants from Latin countries invade the southern border and he will soon “build that wall” is outrageous. An influx of immigrants migrate from all across the world to settle roots here in the United States, not just those from Latin countries. 

According to Pew Research, the top country of origin of new immigrants was India with 126,000 people. By race and ethnicity more Asian immigrants than Hispanic immigrants have arrived each year since 2010, projecting Asians to become the largest immigrant group in the United States by 2055. 

There is  no law that  states children must be taken from their parents if they cross the border unlawfully.  CNN Politics recalled, House Republicans abandoned a GOP immigration bill, which failed miserably with 121 votes to 301 votes. The bill was called Goodlatte II, declaring $25 billion for border security and the construction of Trump’s wall. 

President Trump’s former attorney General Jeff Sessions stated his opinion on the separation of families: “If you do not want your child separated, then do not bring them across the border illegally.” 

Trump’s former Chief of Staff John F. Kelly also expressed his feelings: “The children will be taken care of —put into foster care or whatever.”

The Washington Post stated that President Trump’s cap on the number of refugees permitted in the U.S. at 45,000, the lowest it has been since 1980, and the actual number this year is   half of that. Trump ended temporary protected status for immigrants from Honduras, El Salvador, Haiti, Nepal, Sudan and Nicaragua.

 The Migration Policy Institute said, “No administration in modern U.S history has placed such a high priority on immigration policy.” The U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services changed its  mission statement; it will no longer refer to the United States as a nation of immigrants. 

One particular narrative President Trump propagandized into the minds of the American people is that immigrants from Latin countries are a danger to the United States using Latin-American gangs as the premise. According to the U.S Government Accountability Office, many immigrants detained in the U.S for immigration violations as supposed to committing a violent crime. 

Everyone wants to talk about rules and regulations, policies and politics but there is absolutely no talk about the lack of civil and human rights taking place in the United States. If the president wants zero tolerance, try deporting the families together back to their native countries instead of splitting them up creating unnecessary angst between both the parent and the child. 

The United States was built off the backs of the ones we are brutally trying to keep out. The United States, once the country of immigrants, stands now as the country afraid of them.

 

The Path to Black Excellence: How Socioeconomic Status Influences the Multifaceted Black Experience

By Tatyanna Carman

Introducing the American Dream   

The idea that someone can go from poverty to the one percent, rags to riches, has been the pinnacle of American aspiration since the start of this country in 1776. The goal of the American Dream is secretly one that many Americans share, no matter how far off that dream may seem. This includes people of color, and even more specifically black people. We see it through the gaze of black football players making it to the NFL and black artists performing in sold out stadiums around the world, like Beyoncé. Although we acknowledge the hardships that Beyoncé faces as a black woman, we have to recognize that she did not come from rags. In fact according to a National Public Radio (NPR) article titled, “Beyoncé Is The 21st Century’s Master Of Leveling Up,” she grew up in a two-parent, upper-middle class household. It comes into question, how do the socioeconomic differences within the black community influence our experiences as black people?

According to Investopedia, lower class income is defined as being on average $24,792, middle class income is $81,950 and upper class income is $188,848. In addition, CNBC reported on a Pew Research Center study showing that  household size impacts a family’s income range. It states that a household of one makes around $26,093 to $78,281, a household of two makes $36,902 to $110,706, a household of three makes $45,195 to $135,586, a household of four makes $52,187 to $156,561, and a household of five makes $58,347 to $175,041.

Let’s say that Beyoncé, instead of living in an affluent two-parent household,  lived in a small apartment with an absent father and lived within the means of the working poor. Would we still know her as the Beyoncé we know her as now?

A Brief History Lesson

Now, this is a big topic with a lot of history behind it. And as the saying goes, if we don’t learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it. So, we must start with the past. We all know the history of American slavery, where colonialists captured Africans from West Africa and transported, traded and enslaved them throughout the Carribean, the Americas, and Europe. Although slavery was abolished in 1865 via the 13th Amendment, black people were still supressed by laws such as black codes, which required black people to sign yearly labor contracts; if they refused, they were either arrested, fined or forced into unpaid labor and sharecropping, according to History.com.

The black codes also fall under the Jim Crow Laws. These laws expanded at around 1880 and lasted until 1968 with the Fair Housing Act, according to History.com. However, there was no real guarantee for anti-racism laws to be implemented in the United States. The Jim Crow Laws restricted and segregated black people from certain “whites only” areas such as movie theaters, hotels, restaurants and even bathrooms. Despite the signing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, voting was still a difficult right for black people to exercise, especially in the south as the Voting Rights Act was not enacted until 1965.  This largely affected this community economically as well as culturally. I know what you’re thinking: How does this relate to socioeconomics? Well, just wait and see.

The next era coined phrase “Reaganomics” during the Reagan administration. While many applauded Reagan on his promotion of economic growth, he had a questionable reputation in the black community. In fact, he was the president that had the slogan “Let’s make America Great Again,” which according to PBS rubbed the black community the wrong way and seemed to be a way to take a few steps back from the Civil Rights Movement. His policies, however, did have consequences within inner cities, because of his cuts from federal programs, according to a PBS video, “Reagan’s Policies and Black America,” which directly impacted the working poor. Other policies from other administrations like the Clinton administration’s “War on Drugs” campaign and the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which resulted in mass incarceration, an issue that is still present today, , also were  harmful to the poor, according to British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).

The last stop for this brief history lesson is the Great Recession of 2008. History.com defines this era as, “…a global economic downturn that devastated world financial markets as well as the banking and real estate industries. The crisis led to increases in home mortgage foreclosures worldwide and caused millions of people to lose their life savings, their jobs and their homes.” Many people lost everything, which of course included, you guessed it, the black community.

The Experiences of Young Black Adults

All of these events  come together and influence the socioeconomic differences within the black community currently. Most importantly, this greatly impacts the lives and futures of black young adults.

Junior film, TV and radio major Jada Peterson said that she comes from a lower- middle class background in a single-parent household, which has influenced how she’s grown up. She described her hometown as suburban, but said that “everyone was kind of low-key with everything.” Peterson also shared how her socioeconomic status influenced how she viewed other classes. She explained that not  until her mother introduced her to lower income areas was she aware of the areas and their issues.

“When I was in the suburbs, it wasn’t really talked about until my mom branched out and she showed me ‘Oh this is over here. This is how they live. You shouldn’t treat them any different than you are. They’re just people that are in different situations than you are [in],’” she said.

She also discussed that when she was in school students would ‘“flex” their possessions  to transcend the socioeconomic barrier–people believed if you flashed expensive things that you were well off financially. I think this action is an effect of how black people are portrayed in society.

Communication Studies major and junior Regina Askew-Jones identified her socioeconomic status as lower-middle class and said that status has affected her adolescence and young adulthood by preventing her from going  to the best school. In fact, she had to travel an hour away from her home to go to a boarding school in order to get a better education when she was entering her sophomore year of high school. Askew-Jones described how her socioeconomic status influenced her life growing up and her family’s dynamic.

“For my family, it was trying not to be a stereotypical black family based on our socioeconomic status. So my mom would always make sure that she would never take government assistance. She made sure that she went to work every day and she made sure that we didn’t look like what our status was. She was taking steps to be sure that she wouldn’t stay at the same level, but that she could climb the bar, whether that be through education, job opportunities; she was always leveling up.”

Askew-Jones also talked about how socioeconomic status is identifiable through certain aspects, which is comparable to when she went to boarding school.

“I think the people who are more well off at Rider, you can tell only based upon not only how they carry themselves but even the same thing with my public school, like the cars they drive,” Askew-Jones said. “These Rider students have fancy cars and you can tell that they have mommy-daddy money, while some people have ‘I’m grinding’ money.”

She also explained how she handles the differences in socioeconomic status within her friend group at Rider.

“You can tell by some of the conversations we have, like, ‘Oh she’s about to drop $500 into your account. Ok cool, I see that.’ Or you may not be able to go out to dinner one night and they’ll be like, ‘Oh, why not?’ Because I’m broke. So just the small differences,” said Askew-Jones.

Alyssa Darden, Rider junior psychology major, explained how her growing in a  working poor background influenced her present. She said that her socioeconomic status has caused her to “grow up a little faster” in terms of responsibilities including paying her parents bills in certain instances. Darden transferred to Rider after going to Raritan Valley Community College. Like Askew-Jones, Darden also explained how she felt like she was contributing to the stereotype of being poor and black as well.

“I feel like I’ve had to pretend like I’m more wealthy than I actually am just to keep up the standards and there’s a lot of shame in it, too. I see that a lot in my mom,” Darden said.

She explored deeper into the idea of stereotypes and how they influence the perception of black people.

“Because we’re black, people expect us to fit a certain stereotype and expect us to have certain behavior because that’s just what they see,” said Darden. “We can’t blame them, that’s what they’ve experienced in the past… But I think black people have more of a pressure to change the way that they act between different types of people, especially races just to fit in and feel accepted.”

She lastly reflected on how socioeconomic differences can influence different people’s versions of their own black experience and related it to the people she sees in her city.

“I see the same people as me from Phillipsburg who are struggling and so it just makes me reflect on ‘wow I’m black too and that could’ve been me.’” she said.

As a black woman who grew up in the suburbs from a lower middle-class family, I noticed in my school how black kids from lower income families were treated by middle class black students. I noticed that more affluent black kids in my high school took pride that they were black and were connected to urban culture, but made fun of the kids who grew up in section 8 housing. However, I also noticed black kids making fun of other black kids, like me, who didn’t have a strong connection to the urban culture within black culture. Peterson related to this aspect of the black experience.

“If you haven’t struggled they don’t really count you. If you haven’t had this problem, if you haven’t done this,” said Peterson. “My friends would be like, ‘Oh, if you haven’t eaten this food when times are struggling, did you really ever struggle? If you haven’t experienced this in your life then you didn’t struggle.’ So that makes you lesser in the [African-American] community, so people don’t really respect you as much as someone who went through it.”

She did also say however that this ties into a larger issue that comes from poverty, issues within the education system and institutional racism.

My Perspective

This is all derived from larger isms, like colorism and hairism, and discrimination that dates all the way back to  slavery. People that looked or appeared white, received more privileges, therefore, today when kids see someone that “talks white,” it makes them feel self conscious about their lack of “whiteness” that is held so high up on a pedestal.

History is a large part of what influences the present and the future. We can clearly see that through black history and how it has shaped the various socioeconomic classes and statuses within the black community.  It was agreed among  the people that I interviewed that there are advantages to being more financially comfortable which also  can positively influence a person’s black experience. In general, what makes the black community unified is, sadly, the culture behind the constant discrimination we face. Even though some of us haven’t faced the severity of financial troubles that others have faced, it is clear that the black experience is multifaceted yet unifying because of our history. At the end of the day, we’re still black.

 

Sources:

https://www.npr.org/2018/10/12/655845639/beyonc-is-the-21st-centurys-master-of-leveling-up

https://www.investopedia.com/financial-edge/0912/which-income-class-are-you.aspx

https://www.cnbc.com/2019/09/21/how-much-money-the-american-middle-class-earns.html

https://www.history.com/topics/black-history/slavery#section_11

https://www.history.com/topics/early-20th-century-us/jim-crow-laws

https://www.pbs.org/video/black-america-mlk-and-still-i-rise-reagans-policies-and-black-america/

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-36020717

https://www.history.com/topics/21st-century/recession

AFRO LATINX: EMBRACING MY ROOTS

Esto/Esteban Collado

Over the summer I received the opportunity to take a deeper look into my family’s Dominican heritage by taking an Ancestry DNA test. 

After taking a closer look into the geography of my heritage, it is apparent that the Dominican Republic must coexist with a diaspora.

 

As a result of colonization in Latin American countries, European, Native American and African cultural influences have constructed what we know today as Latin America.

 

The primary language spoken in the Dominican Republic is Spanish, which is a language from Europe (Spain) which I am very proud to speak. Likewise, I often find myself in great appreciation of Palo music (an Afro-Dominican sacred music that can be found throughout the island and that uses the drum and human voice as the principal instruments), which evolved from a blend of different musical styles from Africa. 

 

 

It is obvious that Palo music honors aspects that highlight the historical persecution of an Afro-­Dominican identity. Many Latinx people, especially those from the Dominican Republic, intentionally or unintentionally avoid highlighting Afro-Latinx identity. 

 

In Latin America, there is an implicit bias which gravitates toward the embodiment of European influences yet belittles the embracement of blackness.

 

Regardless of the influential presence of Africans on the island a substantial amount of Dominicans deny their African roots. The denial of these roots has raised questions throughout the Afro-Latinx community, which can be answered with simple history.

 

In the research monograph ‘Introduction to Dominican Blackness’ from the Dominican Studies Institute of The City College of New York, Dr. Silvio Torres Saillant, a professor of English at Syracuse University,  writes:

 

“[T]he Trujillo dictatorship [was] the period when the Dominican State became most emphatically committed to promoting Eurocentric and white supremacist views of Dominicanness”(Torres Saillant, 26).

 

After being trained by the U.S armed forces, Rafael Trujillo’s dictatorship lasted from February 1930 to February 1961. Throughout Trujillo’s reign the Dominican State’s commitment to promoting Eurocentric views was only one of many cases throughout Dominican history in which the importance of embodying Eurocentric influences was valued over embracing the influences of those who built the nation. In 1937, Trujillo’s regime ordered the mass killing of thousands of Haitians in the Dominican Republic, a historic event which we now call The Haitian Massacre.  

 

According to an article from the University of California, Berkeley, it is apparent that “Trujillo sought to whiten the nation. Like other Latin American governments, Trujillo may have been engaging in blanqueamiento, a policy of whitening to modernize and ‘improve’ the nation.” 

 

On October 2, 1937, in the border town of Dajabon, Trujillo informed Dominicans that “we have already begun to remedy the situation. Three hundred Haitians are now dead in [the town of] Bánica.  This remedy will continue.” Considering the history of the nation and the views of Rafael L. Trujillo, many conclude that this was a remedy to blackness.

 

 A remedy to blackness is still being enforced in a subtle and unknowing way as “white-washing” in the Dominican culture is still present to this day. Growing up with Dominicans, I have observed an ignorance towards the deep meaning behind phrases like “no me traiga un prieto.” Prieto is a Spanish slang that a lot of Latinos use to describe dark skinned people. This phrase means “don’t bring me a dark skinned.” When I heard it I didn’t do anything other than laugh about the phrase, but I felt that there was a deeper meaning. Phrases like this are commonly used by parents to let their kids know that they should marry someone who is light skinned; desiring wavy hair and blue eyes into the future generations of their family. 

 

Now, I’m not saying that using such a phrase makes your aunt or uncle racist. It dates back to the Eurocentric views that have been promoted, which led to internalized colorism within the Latino community. Frankly, the idea that Latinos are supposed to have a specific look is, in my opinion,  ignorant. Considering the history of Latin America and how it came to be, it shouldn’t be a question if it is appropriate for Latinos to take pride in different dialects, different cuisines, and different skin colors. 

 

Although I was born in the United States, I culturally identify as Dominican. I take pride in my European roots and my African roots. I am Latino and proud to speak Spanish. To be more specific, I am Afro-Latino, and I deserve the right to embrace every part of my heritage, especially my blackness. 

 

***I would like to thank Dr. Brooke Hunter and Dr. Cynthia Martinez for their contribution to developing my perspective.

 

References:

 

https://clas.berkeley.edu/research/dominican-republic-bearing-witness-modern-genocide

 

https://www.ccny.cuny.edu/sites/default/files/dsi/upload/Introduction_to_Dominican_Blackness_Web.pdf

 

Regarding Financial Abuse

Keyonna Murray

 

      We’re going to start off by exploring a couple of different hypothetical scenarios.

 

    Maria is an ambitious young woman who just completed an advanced degree. She’s also engaged to the man of her dreams, who up until recently has been one of her strongest career advocates. She is aware of her fiancé’s family business, but has never shown any interest in participating. Despite this, Maria’s groom-to-be spends the ensuing weeks pressuring her to reconsider joining the family company, claiming that it would be “better for their marriage” and that her own career aspirations were “selfish.” Maria has suspicions about the state of her fiancé’s business, but doesn’t want to give up the job or the man that she has grown to love. 

 

   Lindsey, on the other hand, has been married to her husband for over 15 years. After a long period of mistreatment, she has decided that divorce would be the best option. The couple, however, have two young children together. Though Lindsey’s husband has a history of struggling with anger management, the mutual agreement they have regarding the state of their relationship gives her hope that he may not react harshly to the idea of divorce. Despite this, Lindsey’s husband explodes at her suggestion, attempting to bribe her into staying with him while threatening not to pay any child support should she choose to leave.

 

    This not just controlling behavior; it is abuse. More specifically, it’s financial abuse.

 

    Financial abuse is defined by womenshealth.gov as what “happens when an abuser takes control of finances to prevent the other person from leaving and to maintain power in a relationship.” It is an underreported yet, unfortunately, very common issue that follows victims even after they escape.

 

     There are several methods utilized by financial abusers in an attempt to manipulate their victims. Some of these may include:

 

  • Forcing the victim to work within a family business without compensation
  • Denying child support
  • Taking control of a divorce process
  • Restricting access to important financial resources (such as assets, family documents, etc.)
  • Offering an “allowance” to the victim; this is another extreme way of controlling the finances.
  • Sabotaging employment opportunities

 

(“About Financial Abuse,” 2017).

 

     This is only a short list of the many behaviors that indicate abuse is taking place. The long-term consequences are just as alarming; many victims face difficulties even after leaving. Some fear they won’t be able to be financially independent. Organizations such as The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence offer online classes to help women that have been in such situations learn the skills their abusers denied them (Thorpe, 2017).

 

     While there are resources available to victims of financial abuse, there are also some practical steps everyone can follow should they find out a loved one is going through something similar. Bustle discusses some of the actions others can take, such as providing a safe place to store critical documents, saving money to aid the victim, and helping with the start of financial rehabilitation (Thorpe, 2017).

 

        Being able to recognize abusive tendencies in a partner is just as vital. Some of the signs listed by Bustle include the withdrawing of a partner, discouragement in relation to pursuing independent financial endeavors, and bills that were not known by both parties (Thorpe, 2017).

 

       Understanding this phenomenon is incredibly important. College students are at a ripe age for entering more mature relationships. Understanding what constitutes a healthy relationship will lead to stronger connections that benefit both partners.

 

        While financial abuse is relatively unknown, when put into perspective it does make sense: 99 percent of all abusive relationships have some form of financial abuse involved (nnedv.org). The most jarring part of this is the fact that people experiencing this may simultaneously be verbally and physically harmed. All kinds of abuse appear to fall under the same general umbrella, which is a deeply rooted desire for control. Regardless of the method being used, abuse is dangerous; it takes the worst parts of a person and deflects them onto someone else in the form of manipulation. Coercion, stalking, insults, and hatred are the fault of no one but the individual using them. 

 

    As college students, we are all in the midst of establishing ourselves financially. On top of that, our morals are starting to become more defined; unfortunately, that could either be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on the effect these values have on others. My goal is to keep considering the consequences that my actions have on others. The best thing that each and every one of us can do is just that; people who abuse others strongly prioritize their own desires at the expense of others. The generation that fights back with actions can be the group that brings us closer to putting an end to abuse.

  

        Maria’s and Lindsey’s situations are  fictional; however, their stories likely resemble countless cases in the real world. It’s time for us -the rising generation- to be aware of these stories. Abuse in any form is a cry, and it’s up to those who care to respond. 

 

Sources:

 

Thorpe, JP. (2017). What Is Financial Abuse? This One Kind Of Domestic Violence Is Far More Common Than Physical Abuse. Retrieved from www.bustle.com.

 

Financial Abuse. Retrieved from www.womeneshealth.gov.

About Financial Abuse. (2017). Retrieved from www.nnedv.org.

Queen & Slim

By Danielle Jackson

Dubbed as the “black” Bonnie and Clyde, Emmy-award winning writer Lena Waithe’s debut film, Queen & Slim premiered in theatres nationwide on November 27th, 2019. After an unremarkable date night, both Queen and Slim drive home until they are stopped by the police for failing to signal a turn. Tensions escalate after Slim is asked to exit the vehicle. The officer eventually draws his weapon on Slim, while Queen reaches for her cellphone to record the interaction. The officer turns the gun on Queen, shooting and missing. Slim knocks the officer over thus disarming him. Slim quickly grabs the weapon and shoots, starting their life on the run.

Life on the run might be one of the only similarities Queen & Slim share with Bonnie and Clyde as director Melina Matsoukas and Lena Waithe see it more as a love story. Matsoukas, renowned for her work on Beyonce’s visual album, Lemonade, describes it as a “way of honoring black people who have lost their lives to police brutality.” The film does not only show love to the people it honors but also between its two title characters. Matsoukas goes on to say, “at its heart, this is a project about black love.” In an interview with Complex, Waithe says she’s honored to have the film be compared to the greats like Bonnie & Clyde, Thelma & Louise, but she sees it more like 1996’s Set It Off. She further explains, “In terms of black people being at a very difficult place with their back being against the wall and nothing that they [can] do [but] to keep going.” 

I saw the first 40 seconds of the trailer and was unimpressed. I thought it was just another movie about police brutality. But once I saw the cop dead on the ground, I was intrigued. It was a twist on the story we know all too well today. A black couple is stopped by police, shortly after one of them is shot and killed. To see the reverse happen, it’s sick to say, but I was excited. I was rooting for Queen and Slim. I wanted them to get away scot-free. I had no remorse for the dead police officer. And I’m not the only one. 

The definition of black protectionism according to author and Law Professor Katheryn Russel-Brown, “is the black community’s response to high-profile African-Americans who find themselves in trouble with the law, or who find themselves challenged, or who find themselves being charged with ethical violations.” It’s a defensive stance we take when we feel like one of our own is threatened. This does not mean that we believe those who have been accused are not guilty, but rather support them in spite of the accusations. This can be seen time and again with celebrities like Bill Cosby and R. Kelly. That’s not to say all black people support the aforementioned, but a substantial amount does. Killing is wrong. Sexual assault is wrong. But what is it about our shared race that makes us overlook these egregious acts in the name of black solidarity?

The black experience is anchored in struggle. Historically, African-Americans have had to fight against slavery, for equality under the law, and the right to vote. During our fight for Civil Rights, countless people were murdered, raped, or abused. Although modern-day African Americans may not have dealt with any of those situations directly, we still share the pain of our predecessors. It was clear that the well-being of African-Americans was not the priority of the founding fathers, so we had to prioritize our safety throughout our community. We understood that to fight against discrimination, we had to be united. This can be seen when we rallied behind Martin Luther King Jr., held our fists up at the 1968 Olympics, and in the “trial of the twentieth century.”

The 1995 trial of famed running back Orenthal James Simpson divided the nation. Some believed the murder of his white ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ron Goldman was a culmination of ongoing physical abuse. Others believed the “system” was trying to pin down another successful black man. An important aspect of O.J. is that he did not prioritize his blackness before his trial. He can be quoted saying, “My biggest accomplishment is that people look at me like a man first, not a black man.” Even though he refused to accept his race, Simpson still had support from the black community. The lead prosecutor in the case, Marcia Clark said she was offended in the way Simpson utilized his famous lawyer and civil activist Johnnie Cochran and the “race card.” Clark made the point, “he was using a very serious, for-real issue – racial justice – in defense of a man who wanted nothing to do with the black community.” Although there may be some validity to Clark’s statement, we have to understand that people make judgments based on what they see. Simpson could believe whatever he wanted about himself, but the television screens showed a black man on trial. Simpson realized it and took advantage of his situation. 

When the not-guilty verdict was announced it seemed as if black people unanimously celebrated. People reported having feelings of guilt after being given time to think about the whole trial, but their initial instinct was to rejoice. Eugene Kane, a writer for ESPN’s “Undefeated” said, “When the not guilty words came, I was shocked to recognize the deep and abiding sense of satisfaction I felt that this African-American suspect had beat the system.” After his initial feelings of elation, Kane remembered two innocent lives were taken and although this legal victory seemed revolutionary, it wouldn’t cause long-term change. Kane remarked, “I knew no past injustices were being made right and the racists in the L.A. police department would remain just as racist even as Simpson went free.” What drew praise from black people was not a usurpation of a prejudiced justice system, but that a black man had got away with murder. 

There is no justification for murder or sexual assault. I guess that is where black people stand perplexed. Many people, rightfully, become enraged over the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman, but fail to express the same level of outrage in the deaths of Sandra Bland, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner. If murder is wrong no matter the color of the victim, then the same amount of sympathy expressed to a white victim should be extended to a black victim.

At the root, we use black protectionism, because we are all that we have. We, as African- Americans share this deep-seated bitterness and hurt, that only we can understand. It seems as if we’re always being pushed down or oppressed whether we’re guilty of an action or not. We’re often killed before we have a chance to defend ourselves. To see an African-American couple defend themselves from a corrupt officer was reinvigorating. Queen and Slim did what Sandra Bland, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner couldn’t. They defended themselves to the point of saving their own lives.

 What I see in these figures is retribution. I see people who beat “the system” even though it was made against them. Although I know it to be false, I would like to believe that the vindication of a few stands as vindication for all.

 

Sources:

https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/michaelblackmon/the-director-of-queen-slim-says-the-film-is-a-love-letter

https://www.complex.com/pop-culture/2019/06/queen-and-slim-set-visit

https://www.essence.com/feature/queen-and-slim-jodie-turner-smith-november-issue/

https://www.thewrap.com/queen-slim-director-on-why-her-films-heroes-arent-really-black-bonnie-clyde-video/

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/10/what-o-j-simpson-means-to-me/497570/

https://theundefeated.com/features/cheering-for-o-j-wasnt-my-most-shining-moment/

https://theundefeated.com/features/black-america-was-cheering-for-cochran-not-o-j/

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jul/23/dont-let-oj-simpson-blind-us-to-black-victims-of-injustice

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/oct/01/oj-simpson-prison-release-america-race-debate

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2015/09/25/black-and-white-americans-can-now-agree-o-j-was-guilty/

https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2019/01/r-kelly-and-cost-black-protectionism/580150/

https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2019/01/why-some-women-still-support-r-kelly/579985/

https://www.chicagotribune.com/columns/dahleen-glanton/ct-met-dahleen-glanton-rkelly-african-americans-20190107-story.html

https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5348635

https://www.bustle.com/articles/165387-these-oj-simpson-quotes-about-race-show-his-conflicting-views

Stop Painting the Imperfect Picture

By:  Joyce Reaves

 

Look at your arms. Look at your legs. Look at your face, closer to your forehead, and maybe under your eye. 

 

What am I getting at? 

 

It’s that childhood scar that never went away. You’ve tried all different methods to make that scar disappear, but it’s still there. It healed, because you made it. It has always been there and is often used as a symbol for people to distinguish you from others. 

 

The point I am making is that a scar is relevant to the past. Even if a scar heals there will always be some type of mark that will remind you of a time of trouble that you can never run from. That trouble is the skin you’re in. Not just your skin, but the trouble of how others view you in that skin, and the people who look just like you. Brown skin. Coiled Hair. Full Lips. A black man or woman. A little black boy or girl. The African-American community. 

 

For decades, the media has portrayed the African-American community in several different forms that mold this distorted representation of African-American lives and our reality. Black men and women are faced with this image that automatically singles them out as being the fault. It’s been hung over us forever, never changing, never going away, always reminding us of how we are the error. The media is always there to remind the African-American community that we are looked at as negative human beings and constantly misunderstood in this world. Stop painting the imperfect picture of my fellow black brothers and sisters.

 

In the beginning days of the media such as: print, broadcast, and social there was no representation of the African-American community,  yet our opinions were voiced. The stereotypes of who and how a black man and woman were to be were showcased all throughout media, and it was not true reality of what we were. The media was viewed to be aware of what was happening in the real world and that was a misrepresentation. 

 

The images of blacks with lighter skin, straight hair, skin revealing, and thin bodies. Black women, young and old, were only being shown for sex appeal, and nothing more. Men were shown as aggressors, criminals, and violent. Where were the positive images and messages about our African-American community? The diversity of all aspects of the community and not just one repeated horror story. Stop painting the imperfect picture of my fellow black brothers and sisters. 

 

The black man in the black community has a target on his back constantly, and is never given any benefit of the doubt because he is a black man. Black men in the media are only limited to success and positivity when it relates to sports or music in the world. It is the only consistent outlet of a positive portrayal of who a black man is and can be in the world, and let’s just say those are rare careers to succeed in. What about the image portrayal for a little black boy who doesn’t want to be a basketball player or a rapper? Black men are fathers too; black men are everything they can be not just one storyline and one success or failure. Black men are fathers who are seen as not doing enough, lacking the ability to be a father. They are portrayed in the media as being absent, abandoning their children and family, and the one who holds the blame for breaking a family apart. Even ruining his own African-American community and turning it into shambles. This is how the media portrays our black men. As mentioned previously, they are seen as criminals and the media does an absolutely great job portraying that image because their stories are increased by only relaying the black-on-white crimes. Those stories are brought to the public’s eye more and given much more exaggeration than any other crime in America.Yes Indeed. This is how the media portrays our black men. 

 

As a young black woman myself, I cannot quite understand how black women are portrayed in the media when there aren’t enough women in the media to portray us. According to the African-American Policy Forum, only 2.19 percent of newspaper employees are African-American.  But we are given images of who we are left and right in the media at a high rate and at a fast rate day to day. But who’s portraying us? Black women have many negative portrayals, but we are stuck with one particular one: the angry black woman. “Why is your face like that? Smile. There is nothing to be angry at. You’re so angry.” That’s without even talking yet, before we open our mouth we are seen as the angry black woman, aggressive and loud. But, that is all we are seen as, and that is not the definition of a black woman. We are so much more, and when I say more, I mean beyond the portrayals of only being a baby momma on welfare, a gold digger who has kids only to seek money, a drama queen in the next reality show, or even a strung-out drug addict in poverty who denies help. These same stories are recycled and are portrayals of the black women. All wrong, all negative, all misrepresentations of all my black queens.

There is a quote attributed to Malcolm X about the way the media operates. “It will make the criminal look like he’s the victim and make the victim look like he’s the criminal. If you aren’t careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.” Malcolm X personally experienced the negative portrayals of being a black man in America as he was and still is an influential public figure for the African-American community who  advocated for our rights. African-Americans are portrayed negatively in the law and judicial system, films and magazines, financially, and even in healthcare. This is a major problem in society because it’s a reason for black people to be held back in many fields. In studies conducted by The Opportunity Agenda in 2011, of African-Americans, it was found that negative mass media portrayals are connected to lower life expectations in both men and women. That is an issue. An extreme one in the world. 

 

The media has not really faced the conflict or witnessed the effects on the African-American community. The misrepresentations of African-Americans in media affect the black community, and shape the public’s attitude regarding black men and women. It does not just alter the individual life of the person, but it alters families as well. A continuing generational stigma follows the black community. The portrayed messages in media have caused difficulty with work, increasing levels of hostility towards blacks, zero comfort due to automatic aggression, and many more areas of conflict that need to be resolved. Portrayals in media of African-Americans  have been a weight on each individual’s shoulders, physically, mentally, emotionally, and even financially. Stop painting the imperfect picture of my fellow black brothers and sisters. 

Modern day portrayals have been more inclusive of positive stories within the African-American community, but we are still held back by stereotypes and misrepresentations on many different media outlets. Why can’t we have a change of image after all of these years? It is still the same even after all the improvements in the media. There’s been a moment of positive stories, but somehow the accomplishments and the good, turn into the bad. It is that same childhood scar that never goes away, it improves at some point, but it is still there having a permanent effect on you. Stop painting the imperfect picture of my fellow black brothers and sisters. 

 

WORKS CITED

Agenda, The Opportunity. “Media Representations and Impact on the Lives of Black Men and Boys.” Racial Equity Tools.org, 2011, www.racialequitytools.org/resourcefiles/Media-Impact-onLives-of-Black-Men-and-Boys-OppAgenda.pdf.

Colby, Jay. “Malcolm X Quotes From His Articles and Speeches.” Theblackdetour.com, 2019, theblackdetour.com/10-malcolm-x-quotes-from-his-articles-and-speeches.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EW-mPQkFd1M 

http://aapf.org/the-not-so-silver-screen 

 

 

Environmental Injustices – Water Crisis

Rikiyah Mixson

Seeking Environmental Justice for Generation Z 

In order to survive in human civilization,  it is essential to have access to clean water. Unfortunately, clean water is not promised in urban areas of America. 

Why is that?  There have been many headlines about the water crisis in the United States. As a U.S. citizen, and one day homeowner,  I feel like it is important to have an understanding of what could potentially affect me, my family, and peers.

I am currently taking a course called Introduction to Health Care.  Through this class, I am learning that there are many underlying issues that contribute to the water crisis epidemic. Many factors, such as infrastructure,  poverty, income, education, race, and more are all determinants of the quality of water citizens receive in their towns.  

For instance, suburban Princeton, New Jersey, which is only about a 30 minute drive from urban Trenton, NJ receives a significantly different type of water quality. I began to wonder if there are reasons for that situation; is it just caused by issues with the streams or is it much more compelling?   With recurring stories about the water crisis affecting impoverished communities, where the majority of citizens are minorities, I began to think of another possibility. Are there socioeconomic disparities in nitrate levels in U.S. drinking water? According to eh.journal.biomedcentral.com, “Low-income and minority communities often face disproportionate burdens of exposure to contamination sources and environmental pollution, and associations with race and ethnicity persist even after accounting for differences in income.”  Meaning, there is some truth to the theory that water in suburban areas, typically is much safer to drink than the water in urban areas.

As a developed country, it was very shocking to learn that many states in the U.S. face water contamination issues. Since we are a first world country, I believe that we are very privileged in comparison to many other countries. There has been an outcry in inner cities for help, but when will we care enough to take action and aid those plagued by the water crisis?

According to WorldVision.Org, “844 million people lack basic drinking water access, more than 1 of every 10 people on the planet.” At first, I will admit I was not really aware that there were people in a functioning society such as Flint, Michigan, facing the issue of contamination in the water. Michigan happened to be the first water crisis in the country that caught my attention and brought much  awareness to people who were unfamiliar with this epidemic. Flint, also known as, “Murdertown, USA,, (the nickname given to the city by residents due to the presence of lead in their water) was the birthplace of General Motors. Working-class people flocked to the city because there were plenty of “good-paying” jobs. So, how did a functioning society like Flint, become one of the poorest in the nation?

Of course, I’ve seen many commercials and documentaries about the struggles many people face in Africa; walking miles just to get water, but it never occurred to me that there were families going through similar situations in the U.S. Americans need to know that the water crisis isn’t just an “African thing.” It is interesting that there is more awareness about environmental issues in Africa than the issues affecting the communities which our relatives and neighbors call home.

“City planning, lack of economic diversity, and increased funding door resources with the suburbs all played a part in the Flint’s leading poverty rate.” (Mlive.com) Businesses started to head overseas and the majority of more financially stable citizens began to move outside of Flint and into suburban areas, making the city lose its value. 

Recently, there have been headlines about contamination of water in  Newark, New Jersey, which is much closer to my home.  City officials say the elevated levels of lead in Newark’s drinking water are “due to the release of lead from plumbing and lead service lines on private property between the street and approximately 15,000 homes.” (CNN) Honestly, this is very frightening because a city of no more than 30 minutes from my hometown  of Linden is struggling to achieve clean water for its citizens.

I know for most people in my parents’ generation, growing up drinking out of the water fountain was very normal and thought to be a perfectly clean source to relieve thirst. However,  now, for someone like my younger sister who is in the sixth grade, she is advised not to drink water from the fountain and would much rather bring her own bottled water . This is extremely sad because when parents send their children to school they shouldn’t have to worry about a child possibly becoming sick from  drinking water from the school’s fountain. 

Over the summer, Tapestry students and advisors read,  The Poisoned City: Flint’s Water and the American Urban Tragedy by Anna Clark. This book had very startling revelations about the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. Clark states many authorities should be held accountable and asserts that, “The Flint water crisis illustrates how the challenges in America’s shrinking cities are not a crisis of local leadership – or, at least, not solely that – but a crisis of systems. Paternalism, even if it is well meaning, cannot transcend the political, economic, and social obstacles that relegate places such as Flint to the bottom.” Further,  “The chronic underfunding of American cities imperils the health of citizens. It also stunts their ability to become full participants in a democratic society, and it shatters their trust in the public realm. Communities that are poor and communities of color – and especially those that are both – are hurt worst of all.”

I felt as though it was important to include excerpts from Clark’s book because she not only addresses the water crisis, she speaks about the system as a whole. The people in power seem to ignore the complaints and needs of those viewed as weaker until their needs become a crisis that gets attention in the media.  

The power of social media is real. Videos, protests, pictures, and more are some ways that can help bring awareness. It seems as though the government and other important officials turned a blind eye to these communities, urban and rural residents had to empower themselves to speak up. We, too,  can help those in need of environmental justice by using our platforms and resources. What we share on social media can be influential, and can be used to further a worthy cause.

 

Works Cited

“Clean Water.” World Vision, https://www.worldvision.org/our-work/clean-water.Fonger, Ron. “General Motors Shutting off Flint River Water at Engine Plant over Corrosion Worries.” Mlive, 14 Oct. 2014, https://www.mlive.com/news/flint/2014/10/general_motors_wont_use_flint.html.Schaider, Laurel A., and Ruthann A. Rudel1. “Environmental Justice and Drinking Water Quality: Are There Socioeconomic Disparities in Nitrate Levels in U.S. Drinking Water?” Environmental Health, BioMed Central, 17 Jan. 2019, https://ehjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12940-018-0442-6.

 

Beginnings

BEGINNINGS

Almost exactly two years ago, I had what amounts to be the same conversation with four young women of color — separately.  Each was about to graduate from our department, Communication & Journalism.  All were honor students.  Every one of them agreed that they’d received a great educational experience at Rider with the exception of one thing:  they were disappointed that our department, with all of its varied opportunities for growth, did not offer a space in which the stories and challenges of underrepresented populations could be examined, discussed, and reported.

During our conversations, each had a different way of expressing her assertion as their sentences began with words such as, “How come I could never…”, or “I never had a chance to…”, and finally, “I wish I could have written about…” Their sentences all ended with “…talk about what’s going on out there that affects me and other people no one listens to…”

I found it fascinating that four intelligent women came to the same conclusion apparently without having spoken to each other or those willing to listen to their concerns.  They simply had not felt empowered to give their needs voice.

I approached our Department Chair, and my supervisor, Dr. Shawn Kildea, during a short sit-down in his office and informed him of the statements from the soon-to-graduate women.  Approximately, ten minutes later I was leaving his office with his hearty encouragement and instructions to write a Mission Statement to begin a new department endeavor that would tackle this student-deemed void.  I’m still trying to figure out how he pulled that off (“I’m the advisor???”). Soon, that new venture would be called, “Tapestry.”

In less than a school year, Tapestry has had the opportunity to feature the story of a treasured children’s television icon, (Dr. Loretta Long, “Susan” from Sesame Street), produced and screened a short documentary film about Rider’s many represented cultures in their student body, (Where I’m From) and offered a series of writing master classes.  Next, Tapestry students (about 8 strong) decided it was time to tell the stories of underrepresented populations through an all Op-Ed online publication.  This new offering would be from the voice of Generation Z, their own age group, called Perspective Z.

Perspective Z will post one publication featuring varied written and filmed commentaries near the end of each semester.  There will also be a filmed discussion, about the issues addressed in the most recent Op-Ed pieces, that will be posted soon after the commentaries are posted to the website.

It is our hope, that through Perspective Z, Tapestry students will positively open the lines of communication that encourage enlightenment, adult debate, and new understanding.  At our Tapestry meetings, students always say, “we’re calling each other higher.”  Meaning, they are working to achieve greater discernment, and intellectual digestion. We sincerely hope to bring that same effort to you.

 

—Juanita Carroll, Tapestry Advisor

Letter to the Editors

Letter to the Editors

An important part of the college experience is finding one’s voice. This is accomplished through a variety of experiences including classroom discussions and writing assignments, student clubs and organizations, and simply sharing thoughts over a cup of coffee in between classes. There are also more formal avenues for students to express themselves such as writing for The Rider News or presenting their work at an academic meeting or as part of the on-campus ISCAP day event. As Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, I can think of no greater validation of one’s learning than the ability to engage in informed dialog addressing the pressing matters of the day.

Thus, I was pleased to learn that Tapestry is launching Perspective Z, its new online Op-Ed publication. I look forward to seeing how this outlet contributes to the Rider community and the conversations taking place around campus. Mirroring what is happening at the national level, in today’s political climate it can be difficult to separate the information from the noise. Sadly, the rhetorical strategy of bdelygmia (look it up!) feels more natural than genuine inquiry. Are we truly interested in learning about the perspectives of others? The value in having a plurality of voices is lost if an effort isn’t made to understand those with whom we disagree. Similarly, diversity in a community must be more than simple presence. That is why coupling diversity with inclusion and equity is so critical. It is not enough to have diversity; we must also ensure access to the open exchange of ideas. I have every expectation that Perspective Z will do just this: help to create more avenues for increasing participation in civil and constructive communication at Rider. That is, to help more Rider students find their voices.

Dr. Jonathan Millen
Dean | Professor of Communication

Overcoming Anxiety

By:  Elizabeth Curcio

Everyone breathe in. Count to 3, Do it again. YOU got this.

You’re trying to float but it’s just not happening

Sinking in your emotions, overthinking, can’t focus

You keep it bottled up inside because you gotta smile on the outside

You hope someone notices, but in the end, it’s you helping them whose broken

People around you but still feeling like the world is against you

You’re not the only one

They say It goes away if you just forget about it

How can I forget about something that runs through my mind all day and night?

Crying on the bathroom floor, no one can hear you

You’re at your lowest and still unnoticed

Fearing telling someone you’re close to breaking, it’s hard when your heart is racing.

Finally, speak out and say what’s on your mind only to hear someone say “you’re going to be fine” I’m not okay, you don’t understand. It’s not your fault I feel this way, but try to envision yourself in my position.

I can’t eat, I don’t sleep, I don’t even try to speak

My mind is taking over, it’s a mental battle no one sees

My mask is on again today, smile and say hello. Although I know, tonight is a whole different show.

Anxiety is a feeling of worry, nervousness or uncertainty- typically about an imminent event or something with an unknown outcome. Everyone has some degree of anxiety. Some may have it more severely than others, and some may not even pay attention to these unwanted feelings.

Suffering with anxiety is not easy. There are countless times that you feel like you’re not good enough, you want to quit, you can’t even stomach thinking about daily tasks. This feeling is powerful. It takes over your entire body. You get the shakes, you’re sweating but you’re cold at the same time, you’re short of breath, you feel constant pressure about anything around you (even if it doesn’t concern you!) As tense as you may be feeling, you have to remember that this feeling does not have to last forever.

The first time I realized I had anxiety was during the 2018 Thanksgiving break. That short week home for me was very difficult in so many ways because I didn’t know what I was feeling. Something was wrong and I didn’t know what to do. All I kept saying was that I didn’t feel like myself and that anything I was doing did not feel right. I remember sitting at the table with my family for Thanksgiving and celebrating my birthday, not eating or speaking because I just couldn’t wrap my head around what was going on in my own mind. I couldn’t put the words together to tell someone how I was feeling, and even if I could- nothing that they would’ve said could’ve made me feel better at that point.

When I returned back to school at the end of November, I remember sitting in my room with my friends and telling them I didn’t know why I was feeling the way I did. As I was speaking about it, I started feeling overwhelmed and I worked myself up to the point of an anxiety attack. This was the first attack I ever had, and it was one of the scariest things I ever went through. I completely blacked out. I couldn’t breathe, everything around me was blurry and I couldn’t calm down. The thoughts in my head were racing. I wouldn’t wish this feeling on my worst enemy. Thankfully, I haven’t had that severe of an anxiety attack in a long time, and it’s because I learned how to callus my mind. After utilizing resources such as therapy, meditation, or the “grounding” method to ease these feelings, I realized one thing. You can get through anything if you have the right mindset.

Your mind is the strongest power that enables you to do anything you want. Our mind programs us to how we see certain situations, what we tell ourselves and why we do what we do. Controlling your mind is the first step in easing your anxiety. If you give yourself negative reinforcement, you bet you’re going to see negativity all around you. If you give yourself positive reinforcement, you can conquer anything. If you have trouble accepting the person you are now, change it. No one can do that for you, besides you. David Goggins, author of the book, Can’t Hurt Me:  Master Your Mind, Defy the Odds,  said, “The only thing more contagious than a good attitude is a bad one.” Let that sink in. Some of those anxious feelings can be derived from what you put into your head. I’m living proof of it. You can’t expect to feel good about yourself if you’re feeding your mind with negativity. You can control how you feel by just reassuring yourself that you are enough and you are the best version of yourself.

I wouldn’t have conquered this battle without the help of David Goggins.  He is a retired United States Navy SEAL and former United States Air Force Tactical Air Control Party member who served in the War in Afghanistan and the Iraq War.  He went through three hell weeks during his training. He also is an American ultramarathon runner, ultra-distance cyclist, triathlete, motivational speaker and author.

As amazing as all of this is, his life story is really telling of the type of man he is. Goggins had a traumatic childhood through his teen years and well beyond that. He was abused by his father, bullied in school, grew up poor, had major health issues due to the stress on his body that was going on in his home.  He was very overweight in his adulthood. Surviving all of this, he became one of the most powerful and fittest men in the world. Goggins thrives and pushes himself past his limits to show that he is more than what he was yesterday. “It’s all about achieving (his) personal best and pushing himself well past his comfort zone. Goggins chooses to run the toughest races and put himself through some of the hardest military training programs in the country for no other reason than to see what he’s made of. For him, physical and mental suffering are a journey of self-discovery, no other experience makes him feel more clear, focused and alive” (Goggins- About Page).  If this man can go through the worst of his life and still come out of it stronger (physically and mentally), there is absolutely nothing that I can’t do to become the best version of myself.

https://www.anxiety.org/what-is-anxiety

https://davidgoggins.com/about/