Commentary

The Road to Change

Within this essay I will move through time analyzing and connecting various climaxes in African American affairs. Starting in 1865 with a petition written by seven African Americans to President Andrew Johnson from Virginia during the Reconstruction period, to boycotting streetcars during the renegotiation of African American life in the New South 1904-05, then relating ideas of Maggie Walker as she voices her opinions about racial responsibility during 1906, and finally into the challenges of John Lewis against the Federal Government during the civil rights movement. 

During the Reconstruction period of 1865, seven African Americans in Richmond, Virginia brought attention to current struggles of colored people after generations of oppression. They had nowhere to go for protection and justice but to the power that gave them their freedom. However, the freedom they were granted drags with it disappointment due to present conditions, which in many respects is worse than when they were slave and living under slave law.

Some would say colored people were similar to prisoners suddenly released after decades of imprisonment. They were crippled by an ignorance weaved into their community by those who wished to manipulate and maintain control over their lives. They had to learn how to make a living and establish themselves in a society that was suppose to see them as equal, but instead thought they were primitive and in need of direction because they couldn’t do anything but what they were told. Citizens of color had to prove themselves worthy of rights and equality. They had to prove they were human beings capable of wisdom and understanding. They had to prove their humanity to people who had no God given right to judge them. Which side is the Federal Government on?

Freedom was not given for their good, but to be a loophole for government allowing repression to prevail, camouflaged in the idea of the greater good being executed. Camouflaged in artificial tolerance. Forty years later, and Negro-Americans are fighting for health, upright judges, common education, and the inclusion of black boys in military and navy training schools (Refer: “The Niagara Med Pledge Themselves to Persistent Agitation, 1905” doc. 4 pp. 162). In 1904 colored people were still looking for amelioration for their condition.

In 1863 ex-slaves thought freedom would immediately accompany emancipation. They expected life to be different, but two years later, colored people still face many social injustices specifically with those who they should be able to depend on, the executers and maintainers of justice and law, the police. The freedom granted to citizens of color still gave White the upper hand. Nevertheless, African Americans in Richmond, Virginia were hopeful. They believed there would come a change to the current state of their affairs byway of the Commander in Chief, President Andrew Johnson.

Attacks on the colored persons’ day-to-day life by the Virginia Passenger and Power Co. or “Jim Crow” Street Car Company during 1904-05 activated new legislation that allowed transit companies to set aside and designate certain seats for members of either race. The authority to change the number of seats allocated to either race as the racial makeup of the streetcar changed, was given to the conductor. This makeup would constantly change as the streetcar moved back and forth through the various sections of the city, thereby empowering the conductor to have a passenger change seats as often as he thought necessary. A history of mistrust and violence already existed between the Negro community and the streetcar conductors, especially after a near lynching in 1902. The newly granted police powers for the conductors did nothing to ease the minds of the African American community. (virginiamemory.com)

After four decades, Negro manhood and womanhood face further degradation. After a peaceful plea for equal treatment they are excluded from free society and remain stripped of their respect as human beings. Combatting this oppression and injustice nonviolently showed the strength of streetcar boycotters in Richmond, Manchester and Petersburg Virginia. “Show to this corporation that independence and liberty are sweet and the day of the time-server is past…. Walking is good now. Stay off the street-cars!” (Richmond Planet doc. 6 pp. 98)

John Mitchell, Jr. and Maggie Lena Walker advocated for a boycott of the streetcars in their respective newspapers, the Richmond Planet and the St. Luke Herald. Both urged African Americans to avoid streetcars and walk instead. John Mitchell, Jr., and the Richmond Planet addressed and attacked the ugly realities of race relations both regionally and nationally. Images of the Ku Klux Klan and public lynchings, scathing political cartoons, chilling lists of those killed by unruly mobs, and politically charged essays were the stuff that made up the contents of this weekly paper. It is the Project's intention that the exhibit on John Mitchell, Jr., and the Richmond Planet will encourage people to use newspapers as a primary source in researching cultural, political or social history, and to reintroduce people to the potential of newspapers as sources for scholarship. (lva.virginia.gov)

During 1960 Walker warns and brings to the attention of Negro men, the dangers of setting foot into the Lion’s den that is the white man’s prejudice. She speaks of building up the black community and doing so by straying away from white affiliations. STOP the white man who is not of your flesh and blood from growing stronger and stronger. Walker encourages Negro manhood to wake up, recognize and pay attention to who they are and where they come from. “…Listen to me, my friends, the only way we can kill the lion of race prejudice is to stop feeding him” (Walker doc. 5 pp. 163).

This is a call of activation, a call to Negro men to pay patronage to Black liberation. Stop paying the white man and start Negro stores and banks. Not to wait for the Lion to snap its teeth and lock its jaws in denial of equal opportunities, iniquitous laws, peonage, and virtual slavery. Stand united against the curtailment of civil rights! Once you comprehend the threat an educated black man poses to the global system of white supremacy you can understand why the educational system as an institution is designed to suppress and even annihilate the mental elevation of the African American child.  

In 1963, at the age of 23, civil rights leader and Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) Chairman; John Robert Lewis challenged the Federal Government. It’s been almost 100 years since African Americans in Richmond, Virginia, sent a petition to President Andrew Johnson. Lewis brings a cry with force and foundation similar to Maggie Walker but with a political swing and uproar to crush the entire legacy of the Lion. Lewis pointers an ultimatum that some would say adheres to concepts of the “New Negro” and the Black image from Booker T. Washington to Alain Locke.

Turning away from the “Old Negro” and slavery, the term “New Negro” recreates the black race by renaming it the “New Negro.” The “New Negro” is a metaphor that combines a concern with time, antecedents, and heritage with a concern for a cleared space and the public face of the race. It asserts a self-willed beginning whose “success” depends fundamentally upon self-negation, a turning away from the “Old Negro,” and the labyrinthine memory of black enslavement toward the “New Negro”… an irresistible, spontaneously generated Black and sufficient self. It is a bold and audacious act of language, signifying the will to power, to dare to recreate a race by renaming it, despite the dubiousness of the venture. (nationalhumanitiescenter.org)

It seems Negro men took on the responsibility of race as Walker advocated 57 years prior. Lewis presents emphatically and continually against the curtailment of political rights for Negro manhood. Everywhere, American prejudice, often facilitated by iniquitous laws, made it more difficult for Negro-Americans to earn a decent living. Maggie Walker spoke on these same issues: “the destruction of all kinds of Negro enterprises” and “the loss of citizenship.” Both she and Lewis declare the evolution of a new age. Some would say their words of activism declare: It’s time to rise; it’s time to walk the road of freedom. It’s time to throw off the yoke of oppression, break from the chains and regain control of our destinies. It’s time for revolution! “If white people are pleased we are glad. If they are not, it doesn’t matter…If colored people are pleased we are glad. If they are not, their displeasure doesn’t matter either,” (Langston Hughes “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain 1926). 

A century long span of time separates the period of Reconstruction to that of the Civil Rights Movement; and, through this time, “peace” is a recycled approach by African Americans. Police brutality, economic and social exploitations, cheap political leaders and immoral compromises live on, but so does the desire for peace. From petitions to the president, to peaceful protests, to promotions towards patronage of Black Towns and declaring a final ultimatum to the Federal Government to choose which side it’s on, the Negro voice has grown stronger. “…must seek more than civil rights…community of love, peace and true brotherhood…freedom and justice exist for all the people” (Lewis doc. 6 pp. 291).

However, “peace” was opposite the recycled approach towards Black citizens throughout American history. Some would agree, the only way to “fragment the South into a thousand pieces and put them back together in the image of democracy” (Lewis doc. 6) would be through adopting ideas of 1950s American civil rights leader Rob Franklin Williams. Williams is quoted in saying, “I advocated violent self-defense because I don’t really think you can have a defense against violent racists and against terrorists unless you are prepared to meet violence with violence, and my policy was to meet violence with violence.” (pbs.org)

It’s been 52 years since Lewis challenged the government and declared an end to “Jim Crow.” It’s been150 years since African Americans wrote to President Andrew Johnson asking for protection and equality. Today, the United States has black enterprises, black billionaires, and a black president. America has achieved so much and continues to reach new heights. African Americans have earned respect and equality. African Americans have civil rights and can attend schools in any state. African Americans can publicly exude pride, marry or date whomever they want, and take legal action to receive justice. However, many would agree Martin Luther King Jr. Day is when America takes a brief moment to pretend it truly cares about integration, nonviolence, and racial harmony. According to the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics reports, between 2003 and 2009 black people were about four times as likely to die in custody or while being arrested than Whites. Within the last two years, the news has reported multiple killings of innocent African Americans by law enforcement. So, will America ever truly stop seeing in Black and White?

By Tamarah Webb


Humanoid in the Manger 

The desire to want “more” is an impending trait of human beings. We can never be satisfied with the blessings we receive. We hold a strong desire to acquire something but once it is ours, we wish for better or something entirely different without first being grateful. Just like kids, who ask for a new scooter, although they have a bicycle that has only been ridden once. Wanting to change the way we look to reflect the appearance of others is another example of human nature. Plastic surgeries- those superfluous in nature- are one of the most demoralizing actions of man that have proven us as unappreciative and selfish peoples.

 Within “Humanoid in the Manger” Bernadine Healy expresses aspects of humans accepting their offspring as they are naturally born, verses altering their genes to create a “more desirable” child. Healy then poses his concern towards effects these developments could have on social classes. The capable wealthy class can afford to genetically alter their offspring but the poor and middle class citizens cannot. Is this fair? Should these “God-playing” experiments (techno-eugenics) even be legal? Will this create a Social Darwinism effect, causing future generations to have been selectively manipulated? Would naturally developed children one day be filtered out by “superior” ones?

Manipulating perfectly healthy genes to “upgrade” a child is a morally corrupt desire that will result in great consequence. Mankind has a relentless desire for control and power. However, “Godly” abilities are not ours to poses. We must comprehend the concept of “separation of powers” and accept it as truth. They were ordained for a reason. We cannot handle having control of the future, time travel, and DNA formation of human beings.

We as the created, can indeed create and are meant to do so, therefore we are creators. However, we are not gods. We must control ourselves and know the difference between performing experiments out of lust for power, versus exploring ideas within genuine investigative science to aid mankind. Lust is a constant demon the man has always battled. In order to protect our creations, we must practice restraint, mentally and physically. We must use wisdom to know when boundaries have been reached, then retract.

 Controlling the emotions, appearance, and or talents of a child through techno-eugenics isn’t only “playing-God,” but futurists have testified to the possibility of headless fetal organ farms to develop when experimenting with embryonic manipulation. These organisms will grow as humans but because of their headless mutation; they can be legally kept alive strictly to be used to as an organ downers. Blocked brain formation during early embryo created these headless beings. This would further result in a headless fetal organ farm, “creating human bodies without forebrains,” Princeton biologist Lee Silver told the London Sunday Times. This is an ultimate brake in ethical barriers. Headless fetal organ farms legally grow and keep humanoid organisms ‘alive’ in order to provide organs to those who wish to be “immortal.”

We should not make techno-eugenics legal and risk furthering these developments. The slightest tweak to a perfectly healthy cell has the possibility to cause a malfunction within our bodies or those of our children. This may spread to become an outbreak that developed into mass infection within communities and then countries. The worst possibility of all is that we could completely erase the idea of natural reproduction. It would seem like a foreign art or ancient practice, making it no longer desirable. This natural development that united humankind would be forever gone. I know this is speaking at great lengths, but we have no idea where this type of science can lead us. The chances we take might be detrimental; and what is done, may not be easy or possible to fix.

The immoral idea of using mutated humans as parts is not only grotesque but also ridiculous, shameful, and heartless. If we opt out of using cell mutation, our conscience may be cleared of this evil.

However, designer embryos could save lives by terminating genes infected with disease. Laurie Beach has battled supra cellar germinoma (germ cell cancer) for six years. Without proper medical assistance, Laurie developed a brain tumor that caused her body to lose its thirst response. In attempts to save individuals such as Laurie, salient experiments such as designer embryos should be further studied. Studies to save lives such as Laurie’s would be for the betterment of humankind and therefore, genuine science, ethical, and reasonable.

Although, Humanoid Manufacture is a legal practice, the only “catch” regarding techno-eugenics is that federal money cannot be used within the work. This brings into play the social class aspects. A window is open to wealthy individuals who wish for “super babies” but this window is shut to individuals within the middle class who may want the same for their offspring.

Creating genetically altered offspring will cause a social evolution that will drown out naturally reproduced offspring. Natural birthed children will struggle to find jobs and attain advanced reputations. As genetically enhanced babies become desirable, prices will decline in order to bring in more money. Without having, “super” genetic abilities, an immoral Social Darwinism effect will take over.   

This is a scary thought, moving in a direction that will cause us to become more narcissistic and narrow minded. We will still have a social class however. Certain people will be able to look down on others in society because their parents/creators didn’t consider giving them a more advanced ability or the genetic traits that develop/ enhance their beauty. 

However, if everyone had the financial ability to attain cell “enhancement,” would this change the idea of the science form be egotistical? Since the problem of a Social Darwinism evolution would be erased form possibilities, would it make this practice decent? The answer is simple, no. Just because everyone is or can do something, doesn’t make it right. Regardless of the popularity or accessibility of something, moral fibers and ethics should still guide humanity, especially on an action of this magnitude. Altering the development of an embryo is an irreversible act. Even if efforts are made to reverse previous acts, what was done in the past cannot be erased. 

It is ethically, morally, and should be legally wrong to adjust the development of a fetus for personal pleasure. Techno-eugenics involves creating offspring aimed for fame, money, and power. Nevertheless, in this progressive area of our society, it is sensible to realize these experiments will exist in our future. We are already a society with desires and willingness to pay ridiculous amounts of money to enlarge part of our anatomy to fit and stay “in” with what we believe is desirable.  

Designer babies will create a grotesque enterprise. Although there is division on legalizing future experiments, practicing techno-eugenics and the development of mutant babies should not be acceptable. The media has created films that predict the existence of designer beings. Zombies are well-known creations in SyPhy entertainment that have developed from mutated DNA. Of course, they are fictional beings because they are living and dead, but the idea of monstrous beings developing form genetic mutation isn’t out of the question. It is a chilling thought. Power is the root of evil. Beginning experiments such as genetic mutation will cause further experiments to occur. Because we possess the inevitable desire to want more, our selfish mentality may lead us to our own destruction.

It would be similar to the story of ‘Frankenstein’ by Mary Shelley. Victor Frankenstein created a being in his own image but because he didn’t mentally prepare for the repercussions or analyze the “god like” abilities he was attempting to acquire, he caused his own destruction. I felt sorry for Victor in the novel; it would be horrendous for mankind to suffer the same fate.    

By Tamarah Webb


Dignity

What is going on? Americans have established an era that our past ancestors would say is backwards. The guidelines and traditional/generational teachings of our past leaders, parents, and historians have faded.  Reality TV and celebrity gossip have stepped in as role models for social cultures. Keeping up with the Kardashians demonstrates the fundamentals on how to adapt to marriage, Bad Girls Club illustrates the way females should reject compromise when interacting with one another, and Jersey Shore is our guide to having fun and being trend setters. What is this addiction we have to the business of others? Why do we rely on the actions of celebrities to determine our views towards ourselves? Where is the dignity in that?

David Brooks shines a light on the issue of dignity within our society by introducing George Washington’s ethical conclusions regarding dignity. A list of one-hundred and ten “Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company” was Washington’s guiding force.  Washington “…come to personify what you might call the dignity code” through the unvarying application of the rules throughout his daily life. He believed these guidelines could create a respectable and well rounded outer man by shaping his inner morals. The code circulated around respecting others and the nation’s Constitution.

   “…human beings are flawed creatures who live in constant peril of falling into disasters caused by their own passions. Artificial systems have to be created to balance and restrain their desires.” Is dignity dead or dying? Can we be reticent and subscribe to a genuine lifestyle? Washington believed we could. However, we look up to what is widely acceptable to determine the substance of what our morals should be built upon. Many Americans believe they are dignified beings because of prestigious careers and positions acquired; however, dignity is an inner quality. Dignity is not a guaranteed characteristic after being promoted to Partner or elected Senior Class President.

Americans implement values of dignity into prestigious branches of our society such as religion and the military. Therefore, we look up to its values and respect them; however, maybe we acknowledge the idea of them rather than the desire to seriously implement them into our everyday lifestyles. Our ways of acknowledging dignity may just be to provide connection to past beliefs and values that we want to control in today’s society but have no interest past knowing they are there. Our actions do not reflect our proclaimed moral beliefs.

The establishment of social gridlock is put into place by our inability to think with self-confidence and assurance. Our attention is dedicated to the mundane entertainment of TV shows. People who don’t know how to act (in the behavioral scene of the word) have achieved the positions of comforter and entertainer in our lives. Seeing what is ridiculous, embarrassing, and out-of-the-box, attracts us. We want to know what will happen next. How will they carry on?

In a way, maybe we feel like we are watching our alter-egos. A side of us that we don’t demonstrate because it isn’t our dominate personality, but is present within our being. Being flashy, gaudy, and loud may be the opposite traits of a person; however, those are traits of their alter-ego. We watch ridiculous shows, about people being ridiculous; and we know it to all be ridiculous, however, it is because everything is ridiculous, that we find it entertaining. We are attracted to the depiction of an alternate self carried out through individuals in reality TV. 

 It isn’t just this young generation to reproof. Wives compare the behavior of their husband to what Cosmopolitan Magazine has to say. This woman may fill her ideas of her marriage based on a commercial piece of journalism. She may question the authenticity of her marriage because things don’t add up to the guided advice of a magazine!  Many of us lack a healthy dose of poise and self awareness. Americans are falling victim to a syndrome that blots out our views and personal identity.

We judge those on television to be people who have “mad it.” We, in-turn, may subconsciously idolize them and their character. Not to say all Americans do this metamorphosis into ignorance; basing their ethical map-work on the entertaining people in reality television and other avenues of media. Some Americans are aware of the division between private and public business. It is okay to be loud, goofy, and obnoxious; but the place and time really matter.

Once I was in a small Bath & Body Works store with a friend. There was serene jazz music playing and older women walking around examining the merchandise. However when I looked over at my friend, she was smelling and touching everything. She rushed over to where I was, urging me to smell stuff while loudly complaining about the expense. She exclaimed about how the products smelled good regardless and then would yell, “You know what I mean?” Suddenly something else would spark her interest and she would race over to grab it and make more of her thoughts known to everyone in the store. The older women continued to look through the store, but I knew they were thinking of the disruptively of my friend. Their wide-eyed expressions told it all; wrong place and wrong time.   

Dignity has merit. It is a guiding force for personal health and wellbeing. Washington’s ethical code; however, has not survived modern life. In retrospect, the values of society have shifted with the time. We don’t carry ourselves, treat each other, speak, socialize, or dress the way we did during Washington’s time. The dignity code is outdated.  Cultural pessimism washed away the old code. Now Americans duplicate the “ethics” of social media and gossip articles. Dignity isn’t hard to express. Not texting on a cell phone while talking to the cashier at McDonald’s or your mother is a simple way to show dignity. Dignity is something you must prove to people by being an example. Implementations of altruism can expand inner morals, which in turn, will be illustrated through our outward ways. Wee all yearn to depend and trust in one another.

Hubris poses a foil to dignity. The two can be easily mixed-up a misperceived. Demonstrating arrogance and excessive pride is hubris, which can be interpreted as a synonym for dignity. However, that isn’t just. It’s a misinterpret because dignity is what should be implemented as a way of self-satisfaction and natural comfort towards ourselves; as well as a positive outlook on our abilities, thoughts, wishes, and life goals. Amnesty must be granted to those who confuse the two and act out of ignorance because they are native to the true meaning of dignity and its importance as a characteristic.

Although, we shouldn’t strip away practices of dignity itself just because its past foundation has eroded away. Maybe a new code should carry on Washington’s innovative ideas. Maybe we need to update what was “designed to improve inner morals by shaping the outward man.”  Being reticent, adventurous, humble, dispassionate, and respectful are still desirable in our society. The code was kept alive for decades and its ideas were passed down through generations. Presidents and religious leaders steered away from publically promoting themselves in order to establish a dignified persona, which then instills a trust from the people. We can prognosticate the transformation into a severely dependent society. However, maybe dignity isn’t dying, just hiding.  

By Tamarah Webb


E-friendships

What is a true friend? How do we know if those we claim to be our friends truly are our friends? Social integration, making connections, and getting to know people are all ingredients in the establishment of friendships. Social network websites, such as Facebook, can play a huge role in maintaining our relationships with those we know.  Today it is one of the largest social sites. Through Facebook, we also have quick and easy access to what other people are doing; we have the ability to regulate friendship status and connections. However, these e-friendships may shadow what a solid friendship looks like. Therefore, there is some controversy regarding the authenticity of Facebook relations.

Through a military lifestyle, I have attended five different schools in different states and countries. Sustaining true friendships has been hard to do. Therefore, when they do come around, I want to hold on to them. Frequently starting from scratch to build friendships helps with adaptation; but when searching for authenticity and dependability, it takes time to find friends. That said, Facebook can help prevent loneliness. If I strictly had to depend on letters, emails, or phone calls, relationships would die out. Today, the most popular way of connecting and staying “in the loop” with people you know or want to know better, is social networking. That said, my essay relays comments regarding both the pros and cons of e-friends. My experiences and lifestyle has proven Facebook to be very beneficial; however when examining society as a whole, issues in social networking are thriving. 

With rejection to the idea of meeting online, as online dating involves, internet friendships mostly consist of physical relationships diverting to an e-friendships. In this, the essence of a friendship does dwindle if face to face contact is not maintained. Not to say friendships cannot remain genuine if you don’t see someone regularly, but the understanding of whom they are / who they are growing to become cannot be fully acquired. Reading a person, such as their expressions, body language, and even the way they speak, plays into knowing them. You can’t have a friendship with someone you don’t know.

Hence, how do we justify the fact that we still feel so close with someone we haven’t seen since high school? Simple, we remember the times we shared with them. We remember how much fun we had or even the things that took place, and we begin to build an e-friendship. These people, we consider long term friends. They have made profound imprints in our lives that distance will not destroy. You don’t have to speak with them every day or even every month, the friendship has roots and therefore the internet doesn’t pose a sense of imitation. Maintaining good friendships are important because they are becoming less common. 

Having a way to connect with people we don’t really speak with can have the benefit of allowing them to know we still think/remember them. Facebook has a getaway page called “News Feeds.” You tab over and the webpage opens to numerous posts from those of your friends. Lots of times you may see a post form someone from your third grade class who moved to New Jersey 10 years ago. On the other hand, you may see a video post of your old neighbor graduating from college. Thanks to Facebook, you can reconnect and give them the benefit of knowing you care about what they are doing.    

During my eighth grade year of Middle School, I met a girl named Mariela Gonzalez. At the time I lived in Kansas and she was a new student from Mexico. We quickly became friends and grew very close within five months. However, Mariela moved back to Mexico once our eighth grade year ended. To this day, Mariela and I still speak and miss each other. We stay connected through Facebook. We have continuously spoken about our plan to meet up one day, but until then, we like posts and write comments on each other’s wall. We have been e-friends longer that we were physical friends. In many instances such as this, Facebook allows people to staying on good terms with, and remember, those from their past.

In some instances however, false impressions of true friendships are created by e-friendships. The combination of current friends, past friends, acquaintances, and family members are some of the main groups created when accepting a friend request. With a simple click of the mouse, we claim to be a friend to someone and want to put the relationship on public display. Tackling issues regarding the legitimacy of e-friendships can only be done by examining these different groups.

There are numerous reasons why people send and accept friend requests via social networks. Sometimes we just meet someone and enjoy a good conversation; we get home, discover they have a Facebook, and send them a friend request. However, do we know this person after just one conversation? Are we able to truly say we want to be their friend after one enjoyed meeting? For the accepter of the request, why are we claiming this person as a friend? What influences us to trust them to be a part of our social circle after just a single chat? This is an example of one of an oh-so-many instance of how people on Facebook are connected. We may not really know half of the people who we add as friends. Other times, we grow apart and those we were friends with are now sitting in a world of the socially forgotten.

The majority of people active in social networks, such as Facebook, have up to 500 and 600 friends. Now, thinking logically, no one can truly have 576 solid friendships. In addition, the idea of e-friendships can give off the idea of false popularity. We can unintentionally compare ourselves to those who have more “friends.” This may, in turn, influence us to acquire the need to gain more “friends” so that we are just as popular as everyone else is. We conceive a longing to fit into the cookie cutter status of societies. In these instances, cyber relations and social networks resemble superficiality.  

By Tamarah Webb