The current US administration is deliberately conflating Central American refugees fleeing terror with economic immigrants. AG Sessions has even decided that gang violence and domestic abuse do not equate to terror in order to justify sending refugees back to the countries from which they’ve fled.
Terror in Central America
The actions of the administration finally hit the consciousness of Americans and the World when we became aware of the policy to take children from their parents, sending them hundreds of miles away, making contact difficult, if not impossible. The backlash forced a backtrack on that policy, but it now appears that the children are being used as bargaining chips and hostages. If the parents want to be re-united with their children, they must give up their legitimate claims to asylum and be sent back to the terror from which they fled.
To learn more about the conditions in Central America that are creating refugees and the stories of several refugees, check out this website on the Central American Refugee Crisis.
My state legislature, along with those of some other states, continues to cut funding to higher education. Anthropology is one of the subject areas that is on the bubble.
My institution requested that I create, for a campus careers day, a presentation on careers that require Anthropology. The video shown below provides a sampling of those careers.
However, Anthropology is for more than just a career. Anthropology courses provide students with the knowledge and skills they need to live in a globalized, inter-connected world no matter what their career goals may be.
For Black History Month this year, I put together a dramatic reading about the case of Loving vs. Virginia which caused the Supreme Court to overturn the remaining anti-miscegenation laws in the United States on June 12, 1967. These laws prevented marriage across the color line. Three of the students at Maple Woods Community College read the roles of Richard and Mildred Loving and of the Narrator. The dramatic reading was presented to the campus on February 14, 2018.
As an Anthropologist, I try to create activities and projects for students in my college classes that encourage them to learn more about themselves and others. Last semester, I decided to take that a step further by having the students do a Capstone Project that would also serve the community.
On the first day of class, the students are randomly assorted into groups. The name of each group is that of one of the world’s remaining foraging populations. Their first activity is to learn about the group and share that information with their fellow group members. They will sit with their group members throughout the semester and do activities with their group.
The Capstone Project is the final group activity. Each group is assigned a different aspect of a current refugee crisis. Using an anthropological perspective, they must research that crisis. From their research, they create a slide presentation that will be shown to the class during the final exam period. All students evaluate each presentation as part of their final exam grade.
During the semester break, I select from the information the groups have gathered to create a blog page devoted to that refugee crisis. The page is part of a new blog devoted to Refugee Crises. Each semester, students will study a new crisis and new pages will be added to the blog.
This Capstone Project provides students with a tangible result that helps embed in their memories the most important theme of Anthropology: Build Bridges, Not Walls.
Last Fall, I encouraged everyone to watch the Netflix series Cleverman. This fall, the second season dropped. It continues to be a great series with a strong anthropological focus.
Cleverman, Season 2
Season 2 focuses on forced acculturation. Forced acculturation is a process driven by the group in power and is enacted on a group that is to be stripped of all power and cultural identity. In the United States, white men in power did this to slaves and to the First Nations. Forced acculturation continues to be used by those in power to maintain their control.
If you have not yet watched Season 1, set aside a 12-hour stretch because you will find it hard not to binge through Season 2. Each season has six episodes. I look forward to there being a Season 3 of Cleverman.
In recent years, an increasing number of students at my institution are either immigrants or children of immigrants from several different countries in Africa. Some of them have discussed with me their concerns about what they perceive as an extreme lack of knowledge displayed not only by their fellow students but by staff and faculty about the continent of Africa and the 54 countries within that continent. It also appears to these students that none of these individuals are particularly interested in improving their knowledge.
In large part, we can blame the educational system and the media which, intentionally or unintentionally, perpetuates the racism of the Colonial Era in which Africa was depicted, if depicted at all, as a place of exotic animals and backward, “uncivilized” humans. Far too many people in the United States view Africa as a country (not a continent) dominated by poverty rather than as the second-largest landmass in the world filled with dynamism and an entrepreneurial spirit. Too many in the United States do not care about Africa and do not see why they should care.
In my classes, I attempt to change this perception, but it is difficult when it begins in elementary school with students’ first exposure to world maps. Below are several world maps. Study the maps and choose the one that seems to be the most useful and accurate.
Political World Map
Social Science World Map
World Map Peters Projection
Universal Corrective Map
You probably chose the one with which you are most familiar. Now watch this video.
The Boston, MA school system has realized that the world maps they were using in the classrooms are a problem. They will now use the Peters Projection.
Given the indoctrination that diminishes the relative size of the African continent, True Size is both entertaining and educational in showing the true size of countries and continents when compared to each other. Note how tiny Greenland truly is in relation to the African continent.
Africa is a continent of 54 countries that differ dramatically from each other in terms of size, population, ecology, and economy.
Africa and its 54 Countries
While there are remote areas with little access to modern technologies, these are quickly becoming part of the past. Even remote areas are gaining access to cell phones and the internet. Many of the cities are every bit as modern as those in the U.S.
Let’s focus on a few countries. We will begin with Nigeria, the most-populous country in Africa where over 500 languages, in addition to English, are spoken. In Nigeria, it is common to be multi-lingual.
Nigeria in Africa
Nigeria is larger than Texas. Lagos, the world’s 10th largest city with a population of 21 million, is on the coast. It is a dynamic center of trade, technology, and entertainment. Nollywood produces more than 2000 films per year.
Our next country, Ghana, is a near-neighbor of Nigeria on the west coast of the African Continent.
Accra has a population of 2.3 million in a country of 26 million. Ghana is about the size of Oregon.
There are still another 49 countries for you to explore on the Continent of Africa. The odds are high that you or your children will work for someone who is from Africa, is an immigrant from Africa, or is the offspring of an immigrant.
If you click on this site, you can see how well you do identifying the 54 countries of Africa. You can retry multiple times.
According to The Next Africa by Jake Bright and Aubrey Hruby, African immigrants and their children are the most-highly-educated group in the United States.
In 2015, Harold Ekeh, son of Nigerian immigrants, was accepted at all 8 Ivy League schools.
In 2016, Augusta Uwamanzu-Nna, daughter of Nigerian immigrants, was accepted at all 8 Ivy League schools.
In 2017, Jude Okonkwo, son of Nigerian immigrants, was accepted at all 8 Ivy League schools.
In conclusion, please watch the following video and understand that it is important to become educated about the Continent of Africa and its 54 countries so that one does not appear ignorant to those individuals who are from any of those countries.
Last night, I went with my family to see Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Prior to the film, there were two commercials. The Google ad celebrated the beauty of diversity and togetherness. The Apple ad was a clear statement that we should push past our fears of the different and take the time to help those in need who do not look like us. When we do that, we will find that we share a common humanity, no matter how different we appear. These themes are not only appropriate to the season, but are also expressed in the film.
Prior to watching the film, I’d read some posts that noted that white supremacists were not at all happy with the film and wanted to boycott it. Having now viewed the film, I can see why they might be ticked off. The Empire evil-doers are all white males. I did not see any females, white or otherwise, among the Empire leaders and rulers.
On the other hand, there were few white males among the leaders of the Rebellion. The Rebellion displayed the actual diversity of the Galaxy, with women well-represented in the leadership. None of the main characters of the Rebellion were white males, although white males did appear in the combat scenes.
Rogue One is clearly making the point that when white males are in sole charge, the Galaxy is at risk. It takes diverse men and women working together to combat white male dominance and save the Galaxy.
The Empire built the Death Star to make resistance futile. But the Rebellion shows that resistance is not futile. Diversity that Builds Bridges can resist White Supremacy that Builds Walls.
Last night while checking out what’s new on Netflix, I came across the Cleverman series. Fortunately for me, the first season has only six episodes as I binge-watched the entire series and got to bed pretty late.
The series takes place in a near-future New South Wales, Australia with a cast that is of at least 50% Aboriginal ancestry. A population of humans that is hairier and stronger suffers under the extreme ethnocentrism, racism, and bias of a large portion of the non-hairy population. The series explores these issues along with ‘medical’ experimentation that resonated with a discussion I’d had earlier that day with my students about the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. In addition, the various subplots are connected by the spiritual practices of The Dreaming.
I strongly urge you to watch this series. It makes you think and, for those who are not Australians, it gives you a fascinating glimpse into another culture.
Sometimes a novel really hits me in the gut. That is the case with Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters. This novel is disturbing, wrenching, powerful, and so terribly, terribly on-target.
Winters has written an alternate history that is not really alternate at all. It is the 21st century United States of our reality thinly-disguised as from an alternate reality.
In the alternate history of Underground Airlines, Lincoln was assassinated in Indiana as he traveled East to his inauguration in 1861. In order to prevent the Civil War, Congress agreed to the 18th Amendment which made slavery legal forever (or for as long as those states chose) in the then-current slave states. No other states could become slave states. Further, the Federal government, using the Federal Marshals, would be in charge of finding, capturing, and returning escaped slaves to their owners. The Federal government would also monitor all slave operations to make sure that basic, minimum standards of care were maintained for the slaves. Winters does an excellent job of weaving historical events in our reality of the past 150 years into the alternate reality.
In the alternate 21st century, only four states remain slave states: Carolina (North and South have joined into one state), Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. These states are fenced off from the rest of the US and have heavily-guarded entry/exit posts. Due to pressure from abolitionists in the non-slave states, companies in the slave states cannot sell directly to non-slave states or most other countries. However, holding companies with complex corporate structures manage to hide the ways in which they and their customers benefit from slave labor.
The One-Drop Rule has mutated into a precisely-delineated color chart with scores of skin-color shades marking an individual as “Black” and, therefore, suspected of being a slave, escaped slave, or, at best, a lesser form of human.
The protagonist in the novel is Victor, a former slave who has been coerced into working for the Marshals as a slave catcher. His job is to hunt down escaped slaves and then notify the Marshals who will capture the individual in order to return him or her to the owner. The story begins with Victor being given a case which feels ‘off’. I won’t give any spoilers because I hope you will read the book.
The existence of slavery and the color chart prevents anyone who is not lightly-pigmented from being treated well and equally in the non-slave states, even if that person and his/her ancestors have been free for generations. Those deemed Black are subject to intense scrutiny, must live in segregated neighborhoods that lack basic amenities, and must defer to the superior White individuals. Even white abolitionists involved in the Underground Airlines view themselves as superior to non-whites.
Underground Airlines makes it very clear that Black lives do not matter except as bodies to produce goods to enrich their owners. How much does that alternate reality really differ from our own? For those who wish to live in a reality where there is true equality and where Black Lives Matter as much as White lives, I suggest carefully reading this policy platform in order to consider how you can support it.
I just finished reading Our Political Nature: The Evolutionary Origins of What Divides Us by Avi Tuschman, an appropriate topic for this election year. While well-written, this heavily-researched, scientific analysis of where and why individuals fall on the political spectrum of left to right might not be everyone’s idea of summer reading, so I will give a very brief summary of its main points.
Conservatives are extremely concerned with protecting their in-group from all those who are in the out-groups, which is the vast majority of the rest of the world. Fear drives their ideology, leading them to want to build walls, both metaphorical and actual, to protect their in-group from ‘invasion’ and change.
Liberals are open to new experiences and groups. They are drawn to those who are different from themselves and don’t really see the world in terms of in-groups and out-groups. Rather, they see everyone’s humanity. Because of their desire to connect, liberals build bridges. They view change as a virtue rather than as something to fear.
As with all traits, physical and behavioral, genes and environments interact to produce a bell-shaped distribution curve. Most individuals fall in the middle: they are conservative in some ways and liberal in others. In political terms, this means that compromise is possible. However, as one moves towards the tails (i.e. ‘right-wing’ and ‘left’wing’), individuals become more ideologically rigid and less compromise is possible. In fact, at the extremes, compromise is disdained and vilified.
The ideologies of the extreme right (rigid hierarchies, extreme inequality, little individual freedom) and the extreme left (extreme equality, much individual freedom, little hierarchy) are utopian in nature: both believe that they are creating the perfect world. However, both become authoritarian regimes where the rulers are treated as semi-divine. Tuschman considers communist regimes as exemplars of the extreme left. Although he does not explicitly state this, it appears that he would place the social democracies of Europe more within the liberal section of the curve than the extreme left.
Our Political Nature was published in 2013, well before the current election cycle, so I am extrapolating from Tuschman’s analysis for the remainder of this essay. While the US has yet to devolve into either extreme form of authoritarian control, the current US House of Representatives is under the sway of individuals who express an extreme right-wing ideology. Compromise is evil and their patron saint is the semi-divine Ronald Reagan whose name has been plastered everywhere.
Until this election cycle, the US has not had an extreme-left candidate who managed to obtain national prominence, but this changed with the candidacy of Bernie Sanders who has a utopian, leftist ideology of revolution leading to extreme equality. As with right-wing extremists, left-wing extremists are unwilling to compromise. Their ideology is right and just; therefore, compromise is not possible. I imagine this is why Sanders and his staunchest followers are finding it almost impossible to accept defeat. It also explains the cult of personality Bernie has engendered. If he somehow became president, I would expect that his name would be plastered everywhere. Fortunately for the US, Bernie Sanders will not be president as, according to Tuschman, the extremes always lead to an authoritarian government no matter what their utopian intentions were.
Compromise is not a dirty word. It is what enables liberals and conservatives to work together to create a functioning, democratic government; one where there can be tariffs (walls) to protect the country while also having treaties (bridges) to bring differing groups closer together.