I am moving my conversation from blog posts to my new YouTube channel: Dr. Anth Talks. Please check it out and subscribe. Thanks!
I am moving my conversation from blog posts to my new YouTube channel: Dr. Anth Talks. Please check it out and subscribe. Thanks!
My article on White Privilege: What It Is and How to Incorporate the Topic into your Class Sessions was published by NISOD, an organization of community and technical colleges, on June 4, 2020.
I did a Webinar on White Privilege for NISOD on January 31, 2020.
Please contact me to arrange for a seminar or workshop on White Privilege for your organization and to receive a PDF of my article on White Privilege which includes links for further information and cases.
White Privilege is a concept that causes angst and dissension. However, it is actually simple and straightforward. Let’s take the second question first: Do You Have It? Yes. If you are white or perceived by others to be white, you have it. So, What Is It?
Simply stated, White Privilege is the ability to live your life doing your ordinary, daily activities without having to worry that you might become a target. If this is still unclear, here are several examples.
White Privilege is deciding to go shopping at an upscale department store and not being worried that you will be trailed by a security guard or intimidated into leaving because you don’t look like “our type of customer.” Read about two such incidents that happened at Barney’s in New York City where the customers were not white.
White Privilege is being in a car accident, knocking on the door of a nearby house to request help, and not fearing that you will be shot through the door instead. The white homeowner who shot and killed a black woman asking for help was later convicted of murder, but that was no consolation to the woman.
White Privilege is being a boy playing in a park with a toy gun and not having to worry that a police officer will drive up and kill you. White Privilege is also being able to kill that child and not having to go to trial and be convicted of murder. Instead, the officer was fired. Later, he was hired by another police department in Ohio, but quit when there was a public outcry.
White Privilege is being taken seriously as a medical professional during a medical emergency on a plane, even when you offer no proof, simply because you are a white male when the first physician to offer help is ignored because she is black.
White Privilege is eating lunch with your girlfriends in the school cafeteria and laughing uproariously without having to worry that you and your friends will be dragged off to the office and strip-searched for drugs. Why else would you be laughing if you weren’t high? The school denies ‘strip-searching’ although they do agree that the girls had to remove at least some of their clothes and that they were given a medical exam. Governor Cuomo is investigating. As someone who has an uproarious laugh, I am disturbed to think that laughing could be considered a sign of drug use.
White Privilege is being a man who loves cars, owns a really nice one, and never worries about being randomly pulled over by police officers who think a man like him could not/should not own a car like that. Highly-educated, professional black men always have that concern in the back of their minds when they are driving.
White Privilege is entering your home and never having to think that someone might call the police on you to accuse you of breaking and entering. Even when a non-white person proves to the police that they are in their own home, they still risk being arrested.
White Privilege is a type of Power, even for those white individuals who think they are powerless. White Privilege allows those perceived as white to shop, play, laugh, work, ask for help, drive a nice car, and feel safe in their home without worry or fear that they will be targeted, arrested, or even killed for being the ‘wrong type of person.’
Since White Privilege is Power, those with this Power need to use it to aid those who do not have it. When you see someone being targeted simply because that person is not white, intervene. Use your Power to make your community a more welcoming place.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
Our next stop is Uganda, a Central-East African country.
Kampala is a city of 2 million in a country of 38 million. Uganda is similar in size to Wyoming.
One of the countries to the east of Uganda is Kenya, which is slightly smaller than Texas and has a population of over 46 million.
Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, has a population of around 3.5 million.
The last stop on our tour will be the country of South Africa.
South Africa has a population of 54 million in an area about twice the size of Texas. Johannesburg, with a population of about 4.5 million, is the largest city in South Africa.
However, for the current U.S. population, it may be best known as the home of Trevor Noah, host of The Daily Show.
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.
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.
In our own 21st century reality, many believe that slavery ended long ago, but that is only because they do not know our history of Post-Reconstruction share-cropping, which was slavery by another name. They do not understand that the Jim Crow laws served to keep African Americans in an enforced, lower status with limited rights. Anyone who was viewed as ‘getting uppity’ could be lynched. They do not see that racial profiling gives law enforcement and armed whites in stand-your-ground states almost unlimited freedom to treat and kill African Americans as if they were property rather than citizens with equal rights. They are unaware of the vast number of goods sold in the U.S. that are farmed or manufactured by prison labor. Nor that the U.S. has the world’s largest prison population; a prison population that includes a disproportionate number of African Americans, especially in the former slave states.
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.