It is clear that the cultures of Black, Brown, and Indigenous peoples are incredibly significant because of how much white people fear them.Throughout history, cultural traditions have been used to mobilize groups of Black and Brown people together against a common threat—white supremacy. People of color have survived centuries of endless white violence and, at many turns, have used the power and reverence for our many cultures as a means to fight back. It is crucial that we preserve our cultural roots as much as we can, especially in these times when white supremacy and nationalism are so blatantly on display. White supremacists and nationalists have historically used the concept of “culture wars” to demonize people of color and paint themselves as victims, usually of some form of the white genocide mythos. Racists and xenophobes yelling at people of color for not speaking English, even threatening to call ICE, is one of the many hills they choose to die on. Their fear of other cultures—languages, traditions, religions, ethnicities, ideologies—is apparent in their actions, on both small and large scales. During the build-up to the 2016 presidential election, National Review’s Reihan Salam described culture wars as the “fight over the future of American national identity in the face of rapid and accelerating demographic change.” Culture wars are, more or less, a seemingly endless contention over who can and who cannot be considered a “True American,” with white, cis straight, conservative, Christians being the ones with the most ability to lay claim to this title and, therefore, also the ones with the ability to determine who else has access to rights in America. “In almost every case, these culture wars have been conservative projects, instigated and waged by people anxious about the loss of old orders and the emergence of new ones. Their anxiety finds expression first as a complaint about a particular policy, and second as a broader lament about how far the nation has fallen from its founding glory and how desperately we need to restore whatever is passing away.” —Stephen Prothero, Washington Post It is clear that the cultures of Black, Brown, and Indigenous peoples are incredibly significant because of how much white people fear them. Therefore, we cannot forget how our ancestors have used their various cultures as weapons against white supremacy, as tools to work towards their own liberation, and as mechanisms to cope in their positions as marginalized peoples. We cannot forget how the many children of the African Diaspora have used cultural traditions to combat and subvert white supremacist violences as they waded in the devastation of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Bois Caïman is where the seed that would grow into the 18th century Haitian Revolution and slave insurrection was planted. At this site, the organized resistance began to take form when a traditional Vodou ceremony was performed. Vodou is a religion and philosophy with deep cultural roots and significant meaning that was birthed in Haiti (once called Saint-Domingue) when an amalgam of religious beliefs were carried to the island with the ships harboring people stolen from Africa. During this time, Haiti was under French colonial rule. The island was rich in sugar, coffee, and indigo, which the enslaved were forced to harvest and maintain. Their revolution was a fight against the harsh labor, as well as the dehumanization and incremental genocide at the hands of the French colonists.
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Problems associated with tipping are seen throughout the country.Tipping can be a great way to earn extra income. As you may often see on social media, people tip others for providing useful information, unique content, or when they need a little extra help financially. But living completely off tips like many waiters are forced to do comes from a system that has been in the United States for over 100 years, and it's actually a really problematic practice based on its history. The roots of the tipping system are racist, and low-wage workers who rely on tips tend to be disproportionately women and people of color today. According to Saru Jayaraman, writing for University of California, Berkeley’s Labor Center, the American tipping system was used widely to keep freed slaves poor. According to Jayaraman's research, many white employers resented having to pay former slaves, and tipping was a legal way around providing actual wages. Jayaraman has written a book that further outlines what goes on in American restaurants. When the tipping system first began to take hold in the United States, it was almost exclusively used for Black people. John Speed, a journalist during this time, wrote, "Negroes take tips of course; one expects that of them — it is a token of their inferiority." This practice kept Black people poor, and provided white people with cheap labor. Aaron Ross Coleman, a New York University business and economic reporting Masters student tells Wear Your Voice, “The tipping system as constructed doesn’t benefit customers or employees. Patrons of restaurants regularly have to pay more money than advertised for their food because of gratuity. And waitresses and waiters often engage in performative and sometimes taxing emotional labor just to make a decent wage. And all of this is happening so employers don’t have to pay a living wage. If fast food restaurants and grocery stores can manage to pay the minimum wage, casual restaurants can too.”
Give “Roots” a rest and explore black history through films that capture more than just certain moments.“Roots” plays on repeat on just about every television at some point during Black History Month. Yes, Black history includes chattel slavery, and stories about the Middle Passage and such. And, yes, “Roots” depicts the era better than any other film could — it’s just not the only film about Black history that’s been made in the modern age. Sitcoms like “Blackish” have created shows with historical points as themes. There have been several films that depict people and events that are pivotal to the liberation of Black people as well as cinematic documentation of how a people demanded and received equal rights as white Americans enjoy. Here’s a list that will take you from slavery to modernity in Black history. You can find them on Amazon Video, Google Play, Hulu, Vudu, and YouTube.
Marathon-Worthy HistoryThis is the era of streaming several episodes in one sitting, or straight-up watching a whole season. Fortunately, there’s some exciting content that you can stream for Black History Month. “Underground” is a show that ended abruptly in 2017 but is a thrilling look at the life of slaves and the Underground Railroad. Enjoy 20 hour-long episodes that are based on historical events and include a historic character that will keep you glued to the screen. Go back further in Black History with “The Book of Negroes”, a Canadian show based on a real journal of Black slaves who fought for the British during the American Revolution and were rewarded land in Nova Scotia for their loyalty. The miniseries follows a slave who was taken from her village as a young girl and follows her as she becomes the voice for the loyalists and their interests. Marathon the six episodes over a weekend or space them out throughout the month.
Movies About Famous Black PeopleFrom the women who formulated the first trip to the moon to the men who courageously flew bombers in World War II, Black people have made their invisible marks in history. Through the magic of modern cinema, those invisible deeds are exposed in movies that are dramatic, thrilling, and just as entertaining as they are educational. The most recent of this list is “Hidden Figures” about the Black women mathematicians whose work was vital to the program in the early days. “Red Tails” follows a group of Black pilots during World War II as they bravely fought for a country that was drowning under Jim Crow governance at the time. “The Butler” is a look inside the White House during the vital Civil Rights era. The point of view, however, is through the eyes of the Black man who served the Presidency and knew all its secrets. “Glory” goes a bit further back to capture the torment and the bravery of Union soldiers in the Civil War. “Southside with You” is a light-hearted look at the epic first date of the most beloved Black couple today — the Obamas.
Learning more about Black history is highly necessary to understanding who we are and where we are from.DNA testing for ancestry and ethnicity is increasingly popular and a number of companies offer a careful breakdown of our lineage. Black buyers especially should prepare themselves for the truths that lie within the DNA results. This means learning a bit about Black History: the brutal truths and treatment of slavery, including the separation of families and sexual assault at the hands of the white slaveowners. This also means learning about how populations moved from the South to the North, as Black families sought to escape Jim Crow and find work opportunities. So many of the anomalies that people are sure to find in their own DNA may not be so surprising after reading the books on this list. Prepare yourself for the truths that lie in your results by reading the following recommendations.
"The Book of Negroes"There were slaves in America during the Revolutionary War. Those slaves were offered a chance at land and freedom if they fought for the British. This book is based on a journal that cataloged the men who were deemed “loyalists” and sent to Nova Scotia to claim their land. Nothing prepared them for the harsh weather and the reality that going north didn’t mean escaping the brutalities of racism. Lawrence Hill’s novel explores this era through a female character who was brought to America as a child and lived as a slave until the war broke out. "The Book of Negroes" will give you a good look at the beginning of the slave chain, where the bodies were snatched and stowed on a boat bound for bondage.
"Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass"The famous speaker and abolitionist with the unmistakable coif was also the author of one the most famous slave narratives today. This book is one of three biographies that explore the life of the slave in the clear and honest voice of a survivor. Learn what it took for your ancestors to survive that life and preserve your family DNA. Douglass also details his escape and freedom in the tome, which is just as educational.
"Queen"Alex Haley’s follow up to "Roots" was "Queen", the tale of a girl born of the assault by the slaveowner. The novel was a fictionalized version of a true story. Just like the girl in the book, Haley’s grandmother was born in slavery and was the daughter of the master. She is thrown out into the world and must fend for herself. The book tackles subjects like “passing” and the conundrum the biracial people often found themselves in. Ostracized for being the master's kid by black people, but too tainted with black blood to be white. Haley didn’t live to finish the book, another writer did so. However, the insight this book brings will enlighten those who open a test to find the unexpected European ancestry.
"Kindred"Another look at the slave era in American history, Octavia Butler’s "Kindred" is actually a time travel story that starts in the 1970s and ends up in the 1800s. Dana is somehow connected with this white kid from back then. Her first trip back in time lasts a few minutes, allowing her time to rescue the boy from danger and return home. She figures out that the boy is her white ancestor and she must keep this often racist, a spoiled child living long enough to create her line—long enough to rape her black ancestor. This book pits a modern woman against the slave atmosphere to amplify the atrocities and injustice. "Kindred" is a fictional, but eye-opening look at a time that is most vital yet most mysterious to Black people today.