The Race Box Question

The U.S. Census Bureau has asked millions of Americans questions regarding their race since 1790. In 1790, the only “races” listed were ‘Slaves’, ‘Free white females & males’, and ‘all other free persons’. There have been many changes regarding the races included, and whether it is an option to click “other” or “none”. As an example, the category named “other race” was taken off between the years 1850 and 1900, and returned as an option in 1910. Many races were not represented and acknowledged until years after the first census. Asians were acknowledged in 1860, 70 years after the first census. Latinos were acknowledged in 1970, 180 years after the first census. White has been the only race category acknowledged since the very beginning. How have they been asking Americans about their race? Through a U.S. Census form that asks you to check the box next to the race you identify with.

Race boxes are asked to be filled out for applications for schools, for subject tests such as the SAT, and for employment purposes. When employing people of color, one must wonder if they are seeking diversity in the workplace or are instead expunging them? It is a completely valid question to ask, especially in today’s day and age where diversity feels like more of an obligation than an embraced concept. Many are afraid of being race exclusive or deemed a “racist”, when the truth is, they did not hire them because they didn’t believe they were the right fit. Affirmative action, or the favoring of those who often face discrimination, is used all the way from college admissions to job applicants. Many argue the use of affirmative action and voice that it goes against what was the “most sweeping civil rights legislation since the Reconstruction”: The Civil Rights Act of 1964 (United States, Congress, Senate). In Title VII, it bans discriminatory practices in employment. The question remains, what to do about race boxes?

Race is defined as a group of people with common ancestry, yet with it, comes an unexpected baggage that hasn’t always been there. Race is important in the way that is differentiates us, provides us with a culture (whether we choose to associate with that given culture or not is our choice) that we can share and build relations from, but it also has been providing a barrier to some. It was a barrier in the early 1600’s when slaves first appeared on the scene, it was barrier until the late 1960’s during the Civil Right Movement, it’s still a barrier to some today. Derogatory terms have been tied to race, and hate has stemmed from peoples view on others race. To me, race is a quality that should be embraced but is unnecessary to peruse. It’s a social construct that society has labeled us by, but it by no means represents who we are fully. At the end of the day, race is just another box society is trying to squeeze us in. We should move on and explore the parts of ourselves that would reveal more about us than race ever could.

Advertisements

Hamilton

We all know our founding fathers, and some of the first presidents. Most of them were middle age white men, but imagine if the founding fathers came from different backgrounds. This is exactly what Hamilton the Musical does. It takes major figures in America’s history- Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Eliza Schuyler- and makes them characters of color.Just today I went to go see “Hamilton” in Chicago, and although I have listened to the music non-stop I never realized how diverse the cast really is.

The Musical tells the real-life story of Alexander Hamilton and his fellow revolutionaries through a shockingly diverse cast. When the character of Hamilton first appeared, he was not at all who I was expecting. Growing up in the community that I did, and just based on American History I was expecting Hamilton to be a white male, or possibly a male of puerto rican descent, as he was in the original cast. Instead Hamilton was played by a black actor. This only phased me for a second before I adjusted to what the characters would actually be like. By the end of the opening song the entire cast was onstage, and the show’s only white lead was England’s King George III.

With this one character being the only white lead, I found the shows’ cast and the story they were telling interesting. Here is a cast made almost completely out of colored actors, telling the story of a war that is being fought and wanting to eventually end slavery. In my opinion, there couldn’t have been a better cast to portray these roles. Yes, our founding fathers were white but this cast of all color is going to have a deeper connection and better understanding to the story of wanting to end slavery, because it was their ancestors. They are the ones that the audience may have a racial bias towards everyday when they come out on stage because some people think that just because the founding fathers were white they must be played by white actors. However, this is a white story being told effectively by a cast of color, and it has been hugely appealing to Broadway audiences, which is made up of a mostly white demographic. It seems that, with this cast of color, there is a lesson, and that would be that actors of color are not a liability.

Diversity in Altered Carbon

*Includes spoilers

A new Netflix Original Series that I fell in love with is Altered Carbon. First, I’ll give you an overview of what it’s about, so you will know what I am talking about. Altered Carbon is set in the future where consciousness is put into “stacks” (digital disks that can be transferred to any body), so people can live forever. As the show begins, the main character Takeshi Kovacs wakes up in a new body after 250 years of being “on ice” (stored away-kind of like prison). He is given the chance to win his freedom if he can solve the mind-bending murder of Laurens Bancroft, a very rich man with a big ego. As I watched this show I noticed a wide range of diversity of the characters that appear throughout the show. By this, I mean all of the body switching that happens for characters’ consciousnesses. Takeshi Kovacs has flashbacks a few times during each episode and in them he is a Japanese male, which was his original body. In the present, he is in the body of a white male and eventually is put into another body at the end, but the race is kept a secret (it will be revealed in the second season). Another example of diversity of bodies is when a Russian criminal gets his head chopped off. He wakes up in the police station to be interrogated in the body of a white male. In one of the later episodes, Takeshi gets a woman “off ice,” but she ends up stuck in the body of a white male. She eventually is able to get her real body back, as an African American woman. Now that I am thinking about this, I am starting to realize that every body that the main characters and even lesser characters are put into are white males. Although, any character of a race other than white who doesn’t die, gets to stay in their original bodies. Out of the main characters; Takeshi Kovacs, Laurens Bancroft, Kristin Ortega, Reileen Kawahara, Vernon Elliot, Miriam Bancroft, Mr. Leung, and Quellcrist Falconer, half of them get to keep their original races. Overall, this is a very good show that is worthy of binge watching.

 

O Brother, Who Diverse Art Thou?

O Brother George
Welcome to this blog post, how diverse are ya?

A trio of escaped convicts are the focus of the Coen Brothers’ 2000 film, “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” The three convicts make their way through Mississippi in the 1920s as they come across all kinds of diverse characters and experience incredible adventure in the pursuit of freedom and riches. The Coen Brothers list the Odyssey as inspiration from which they adapted this screenplay, so those familiar with Homer’s epic will find similar themes. Ulysses Everett McGill (portrayed by George Clooney) is the modern Ulysses leading his “loyal” followers in and out of crazy situations.

As the movie takes place in the 1920’s South, racial diversity is incredibly easy to spot. The opening scene shows a chain gang smashing rocks. Most of the convicts on the chain gang are black men; as these black men swing their picks, they all sing a spiritual slave song to the beat of their labor. In fact, the soundtrack of the movie is a wealth of diversity. A variety of slave spirituals are sprinkled throughout the film as well as songs steeped in Southern culture, such as “You Are My Sunshine” and “The Big Rock Candy Mountains”. In fact, music is often a point of diversity within the plot of the movie. As the three escaped convicts try to make their way to freedom, they cross paths with a black man who claimed to have “sold his soul to the Devil” in order to be able to become famous for his guitar skills. The three convicts take him along, and sure enough, their new companion ends up being quite helpful. When the quartet (calling themselves the Soggy Bottom Boys) comes across a recording studio that is offering pay for studio time, they decide to try to have a payday through that. When they go into the recording studio, the owner of the studio immediately questions them about their race: “You boys play Negro songs?” (It should also be noted that the owner is a blind man). When Ulysses replies that they indeed are negroes (which only one of the four really is), thinking that that is what the owner desires, the owner replies, “Well, I don’t record n***** songs here.” This particular scene is an easy spot for anyone looking for diversity in this movie.

Soggy Bottom Boys
The Soggy Bottom Boys!

The older white people of Georgia would have been brought up in a world full of people that were still bitter about the Civil War and carried hate in their hearts for black people. Such hatred was certainly not uncommon among the white people of Georgia; later in the film, the three protagonists witness a secret gathering of the local KKK chapter, and there are more than 100 members in this particular chapter.

O Brother KKKIn the American South in the 1920s, it is not hard in any way to spot diversity because of how starkly diversity was defined by specifically race. Not for another forty years would black people begin to gain rights equal to those of their white neighbors.

Diversity in the Workplace

               I think the were diversity could use the most help is in the American work force. I feel as though that there are several areas that could be improved on in both race and gender. I feel though that gender is where the largest gap and needs the most help. I feel as though most business places have a male dominant presence which I do not think should always be the case because I feel as though that there are some things guys are naturally good and many things that women are good at. Now is may vary for the type of fields that you are in I would say that Engineering is possibly one of the more male dominant area and I think that engineering could use a women’s opinion. Possibly one of the reasons that women do not pursue certain carriers is because of the glass ceiling they may run into. Due to no fault of their own women are somehow payed less even though they work just as hard or even harder than their male coworkers. My mother works for the city that I am from and she is a city clerk but for as long as she has worked their there has only been women to work there. The stories that my mom tells me about work sometimes would drive me crazy, because the patients she has for people I think mostly women could have that kind of patients, and I know I would never be able to sit there and smile and help them out after they yelled and got mad.  So, I applaud any and all women who try to break into a more male dominated area and I would encourage it.

               I think diversity with race in the work place is completely different from a women’s’ issues in the workforce. I think the reason why people of other race such as African Americans, Latino, and many more have problems with getting treated fairly in the work force, is that they are never given a chance to prove themselves. I think that many people are still probably judged by the color of their skin even though employers are technically not supposed to. I think every person should have an equal chance to get a job and have equal pay no matter male or female, and no matter the skin color. If someone is passionate enough to pursue a carrier they should be given a chance.

Racial Diversity and High School Education

In my high school there was not a lot of racial diversity among students, the majority being Caucasian and the rest African Americans, but there was diversity in the education. The administrators and principal were very prejudice with education and the students. They believed that the Caucasian students would do better in their classes than the African American students, so they tweaked the rules of education for the African American students. They came up with different class lesson plans for the African American students, which were easier than the lesson plans for the Caucasian students. They also provided the African American students with a classroom of their own where they got help from teachers who were not associated with the Caucasian classes or students. There was also a separate school where more troubled African American students could attend. Then, there was the grading system. My high school was very big on graduation numbers, so they made graduating as easy as possible. They looked at statistics about graduating and changed the guidelines for graduating, which made the grading system easier to match the education the African American students were receiving. It was a four point based system. It was impossible for someone to get a zero, because of the way it was structured, so the lowest score was one and the highest was four. Although, this grading scale made it easier for all students to graduate, it made it harder for them to get fours. The fourth point was defined as going above and beyond the teachers teaching and lesson plans. It was almost impossible for a student to get a four because the school and teachers expected them to do extra research for the topics and subjects we were going over in class. In the end, my high school got the best score in the state or possibly country for graduating students even though they went about it in very, very wrong ways.

*Side note: There were some African American students in the higher level classes and some Caucasians in the lower level classes, so it wasn’t considered to be racist to the community. It was mainly their views on statistics that made them think this way, which is stupid, not their own beliefs. They were too focused on how our high school was rated to actually see what they were doing. I hope it has changed for the better since I left.

Recent Events- Black Panther

For this blog post, I want to focus on a recent event that is still going on to this day. I found this event written as a news story through my hometown CBS affiliate’s website. Their specific name is KCCI News, and it serves Des Moines and surrounding areas. They included this article from CNN in their “National News” tab. It describes the upcoming movie Black Panther. Apparently, there has been online criticism of the movie already, before it even releases. Black Panther releases later this month on February 16th. There is a culture and fan base of DC Comic movies that want to “take down Disney”. DC Fans view Disney as this monopoly that does not deserve the fame it gets for a movie studio that they purchased for some large amount of money.

 

Another important aspect of this article is the fact that DC’s fan-base is trying to recruit other fan-bases. They are even trying to turn Marvel’s fan-base on itself, and telling anyone they can to go ahead and give the film terrible reviews on sites such as Rotten Tomatoes before it even is released!

 

One point to make about this article is that it tackles the issue of race. If you follow any of the Black Panther story line at all then it would be known that a lot of his story takes place in Wakanda. This place is a fictional nation in Africa, thus an all-black cast. A takeaway from these DC fans that are ranting about the film is that they are anti-black because it is the very first Marvel film to feature a majority black cast. It only tarnishes the DC fan-base if this were true, because it is a milestone for the black community and very important movie for Marvel to push.

 

Diversity is written all over this story. On one hand you have a movie that is the first superhero movie to be included in a huge universe that has a primarily black cast. The character Black Panther is also the first black Marvel superhero to have his own title movie. On the other hand there is the diverse DC fan-base that wants to exile this movie, while no one else really feels that way, at least until seeing the movie for themselves. Overall, I think no one should condemn films before it’s release. I for one, will plan on seeing Black Panther at some point in my busy college life, and make a decision (good or bad) based solely on the quality of the film.Black-Panther-Meme-Funny-Image-Photo-Joke-04