Monday, February 23, 2015

As Clear As Black and White

During these past few weeks, as bright white snow has taken over New England, Honors History 10 has studied another period during which the color white dominated-- the US's early 19th century. As cotton became a large industry, slavery became economically entrenched and the white population dominated the blacks, forcing them to submit to slavery.

At the start of the 19th century, slavery looked like it was on its way out. But with the invention of the cotton gin, there became a desperate need for people to work the rapidly expanding cotton plantations—slaves were the answer. When Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin in 1793, cotton plants became economically profitable to grow. Down south cotton grew easily, so as the crop grew in export revenue, the number of slaves working southern plantations also expanded. Between 1790 and 1800, cotton became 7% of the nation’s total export revenue with a slave population of about 690,000. As cotton’s export revenue grew to be 22% in 1820, the slave population expanded in turn to 1,191,000. Slavery became economically established by the early 19th century because cotton became a large part of the industry, and slaves were necessary to run cotton plantations. 

Displaying Image-1.jpg
Frederick Douglas's on whites on the 4th.

The system of slavery that became economically entrenched in the US’s early 19th century affected human dignity in the sense that it degraded African members of society by singling them out as slaves. Anti- Slave activist and American author, Fredrick Douglas responded to white American’s hypocritical celebration of freedom on the 4th of July. Upon asking what the 4th meant to an American slave, Douglas stated that it, “reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim.” White Americans treated blacks as so much lesser than them that they were able to declare freedom for all members of society, while completely overlooking the massive African slave population that lacked freedom. Many African Americans, like Douglas, felt so offended by the discrimination that they faced because of race based slavery that they spoke out about it.

Displaying Image-1.jpg
Douglas's response to the whites' hypocritical 4th celebration.
In this system of race based slavery, African Americans had many of their rights ignored, and their right to freedom taken away completely. As mentioned above, Frederick Douglas argued against the hypocritical white American declaration stating all men free. According to Article 4, Section 2, Clause 3 of the Founder’s Declaration, any slave who escapes, “shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labour may be due.” Slaves were bound to their owners for life—they lacked the right to escape and live freely. Already without freedom, slaves had even more dignity take from them by being counted not as a whole person, but 3/5 of the person in deciding state population. Race based slavery discriminates against a particular race, and ignores the needs, rights, and characteristics of that race. 

For more on 19th century US's race based slavery, check out the this article about the life of Abdul Rahman, an African prince who was captured and enslaved in the US. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Gender Equality, or Lack There Of

After years of male dominance, 19th century society was taken aback when women began talking and writing in an effort to earn equality. Never before had women voiced their thoughts, much less argued with those of the male gender. But in 1848, that began to change. Women from all over the country gathered at the Seneca Falls Convention to discuss the current social, civil, and religious conditions of women and fight for equal rights in these areas. Form this convention sprung more, causing both positive and negative reactions.
After the Seneca Falls Convention in July of 1848, newspapers all over the country had something to say, and that something was not always very nice. “It requires no argument to prove that this is all wrong,” declares The Mechanics Advocate about the rights of women. While women’s reforms upset a large portion, a chunk of the population was in support of women’s equality. The North Star Newspaper considers women member of the “human family” and argues that, “we cannot be deterred from an expression of our approbation of any movement, however humble, to improve and elevate the character and condition of any members of the human family.” As an abolitionist newspaper, The North Star agrees that ALL humans should have the same rights, including black men and women of all kinds.
Over 150 years after the Seneca Falls Convention and the start of the women’s reforms, one would think that gender equality should be prominent in the US—sadly that is not quite the case. Although today’s society likes to think that both genders are treated the same—women work until they have to stay home and watch their kids, laws forbid abuse within a relationship, etc.—there are still many VERY prominent differences in the treatment of women and men.
One of the most obvious ways to see the different treatment of females and males in our society today is through social media. Let’s start with Instagram. One of the easiest ways to rake in compliments and boost your self-esteem is to post a quick selfie—IF you’re a girl. What is considered “cute” when posted by a girl, is called “soft” or ever “gay” (sadly and WRONGLY used as an insult) when a guy posts it. Now on to twitter. There is nothing more annoying than a heated feminist on twitter complaining unequal treatment, right? But somehow it’s funny to make a parody account called “meninist”, where users make fun of these attempts as gender equality.
Yes, society has come far from the day’s during which women weren’t allowed to speak, and men were allowed to beat their wives at a whim. But is our society, one rich with double standards, really THAT much better?
Check out this Pantene commercial, pointing out ways women and men are treated different in society today. Can you relate?