“Ignorance as a Tool of Slavery”

Recent events have made us sensitive to the absolute need to make available high quality public education to all our children. This is not a new theme but it is essential to remember that ignorance is the tool that has been used, perhaps through all of history, to control those that some wish to deprive of power in society. An example would be the use of “Ignorance as a tool of slavery (from a summary).” Below we continue on this theme. We read from:
“Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass”
” Ignorance as a Tool of Slavery”
“Douglass’s Narrative shows how white slave holders perpetuate slavery by keeping their slaves ignorant. At the time Douglass was writing, many people believed that slavery was a natural state of being. They believed that blacks were inherently incapable of participating in civil society and thus should be kept as workers for whites. The Narrative explains the strategies and procedures by which whites gain and keep power over blacks from their birth onward. Slave owners keep slaves ignorant of basic facts about themselves, such as their birth date or their paternity. This enforced ignorance robs children of their natural sense of individual identity. As slave children grow older, slave owners prevent them from learning how to read and write, as literacy would give them a sense of self-sufficiency and capability. Slaveholders understand that literacy would lead slaves to question the right of whites to keep slaves. Finally, by keeping slaves illiterate, Southern slave holders maintain control over what the rest of America knows about slavery. If slaves cannot write, their side of the slavery story cannot be told. Wendell Phillips makes this point in his prefatory letter to the Narrative.”
Knowledge as the Path to Freedom
“Just as slave owners keep men and women as slaves by depriving them of knowledge and education, slaves must seek knowledge and education in order to pursue freedom. It is from Hugh Auld that Douglass learns this notion that knowledge must be the way to freedom, as Auld forbids his wife to teach Douglass how to read and write because education ruins slaves. Douglass sees that Auld has unwittingly revealed the strategy by which whites manage to keep blacks as slaves and by which blacks might free themselves. Douglass presents his own self-education as the primary means by which he is able to free himself, and as his greatest tool to work for the freedom of all slaves.”
“Though Douglass himself gains his freedom in part by virtue of his self-education, he does not oversimplify this connection. Douglass has no illusions that knowledge automatically renders slaves free. Knowledge helps slaves to articulate the injustice of slavery to themselves and others, and helps them to recognize themselves as men rather than slaves. Rather than provide immediate freedom, this awakened consciousness brings suffering, as Hugh Auld predicts. Once slaves are able to articulate the injustice of slavery, they come to loathe their masters, but still cannot physically escape without meeting great danger.”
The above has great meaning today in a world where free and equal access to quality public education is under assault. It is not only in Frederick Douglass’ day and world that there had been an attempt to deprive citizens of the tools they need to reflect upon and evaluate the quality of their leaders and act accordingly with insight and courage.
(From SparkNotes Editors, (2002). SparkNote on Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. Retrieved February 15, 2017, from http:/www.sparkotes.com/lit/narrative/.)
Fondly submitted,
For the Diversity Committee

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Frederick Douglass the Founder of the Civil Rights Movement

     At this time it is well to look back at the greats
in American history to understand and reflect on
the talents and challenges of the leaders of today.
It is said that Frederick Douglass was, by his actions and
writings, the founder of America’s civil rights movement. Here,
from an informative Wikipedia article, we read part of the story
of the great Frederick Douglass.
Frederick Douglass (born Frederick Augustus Washington
Bailey), (c. February 1818-February 20, 1895) was an African-
American social reformer, abolitionist, orator, writer, and
statesman. After escaping from slavery in Maryland, he became
a national leader of the abolitionist movement in
Massachusetts and New York, gaining note for his dazzling
oratory] and incisive antislavery writings. In his time, he was
described by abolitionists as a living counter-example to
slaveholders’ arguments that slaves lacked the intellectual
capacity to function as independent American citizens.
Northerners at the time found it hard to believe that such a
great orator had once been a slave.
Douglass wrote several autobiographies. He described his
experiences as a slave in his 1845 autobiography, Narrative of
the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, which
became a bestseller, and was influential in promoting the cause
of abolition, as was his second book, My Bondage and My
Freedom (1855). After the Civil War, Douglass remained an
active campaigner against slavery and wrote his last
autobiography, Life and Times of Frederick Douglass. First
published in 1881 and revised in 1892, three years before his
death, it covered events during and after the Civil War.
Douglass also actively supported women’s suffrage, and held
several public offices. Without his approval, Douglass became
the first African American nominated for Vice President of the
United States as the running mate and Vice Presidential
nominee of Victoria Woodhull, on the Equal Rights Party ticket.
Douglass was a firm believer in the equality of all peoples,
whether black, female, Native American, or recent immigrant.
He was also a believer in dialogue and in making alliances
across racial and ideological divides and in the liberal values of
the American Constitution. When radical abolitionists, under
the motto “No Union With Slaveholders,” criticized Douglass’
willingness to dialogue with slave owners, he famously replied:
“I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do
One biographer argues:
“The most influential African American of the
nineteenth century, Douglass made a career of
agitating the American conscience. He spoke and
wrote on behalf of a variety of reform causes:
women’s rights, temperance, peace, land reform,
free public education, and the abolition of capital
punishment. But he devoted the bulk of his time,
immense talent, and boundless energy to ending
slavery and gaining equal rights for African
Americans. These were the central concerns of his
long reform career. Douglass understood that the
struggle for emancipation and equality demanded
forceful, persistent, and unyielding agitation. And
he recognized that African Americans must play a
conspicuous role in that struggle. Less than a
month before his death, when a young black man
solicited his advice to an African American just
starting out in the world, Douglass replied without
hesitation, “Agitate! Agitate! Agitate!”

Fondly submitted for the Diversity Committee

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The Affordable Care Act and Its Impact on Women and Children–

From the beginning of the discussion of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), there was a good bit of talk in some circles, that it was for the “others.” Sadly we are drifting into a society where there is a focus on a “them versus us” mentality. Named “Obamacare” by detractors, there was an attempt to manipulate thinking in such a way that if you didn’t like the person for whom it was named, you didn’t like the plan. Not everyone knew about the plan itself. Here in an article by Ara Siegel, the plan is described. Note, as it is being attacked by detractors, how much the plan benefits women and children who, in fact, should be considered as “all of us.” There are no “others.”
7 Ways Obamacare Impacts Women and Families
You’ve heard about the Affordable Care Act, but what changes affect you, your family or your caregiver?
There’s been a lot of talk about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or “Obamacare.” But when it comes down to it, how many of us can get past the bureaucracy and legal jargon to truly understand if this law can help our families? The ACA provides benefits for women and families (maternity coverage!) that might help you. And considering women make about 80% of health care decisions for their families, we’re decoding Obamacare so you don’t have to. Here are seven things to consider:
1. Access–The ACA created a mandate that generally all employers with over 50 full-time employees (over 30 hours/week) provide health coverage for their workers. If you do not receive insurance though an employer then you can purchase it on the Health Insurance Marketplace, where you can choose a private health plan that fits your needs as well as learn if you qualify for certain subsidies.
The ACA also allows states to expand Medicaid eligibility, meaning more access to quality care for all kinds of families, such as those with disabled children, or who are low-income (one in five Americans gets their health care through Medicaid).
2. Affordability–Under the ACA’s new 80/20 rules, at least 80 cents of every dollar insurance companies spend must go towards your healthcare or improvements to care. Women and families who could not afford healthcare in the past have new access to affordable coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace which offers a range of plans in every state. And if insurance companies want to raise your premiums by more than 10 percent, they must publicly justify their actions.
3. Young Adults–Young adults can now stay on their parents’ health insurance plan until age 26.
4. Gender and Illness Up-Charges–Insurers can no longer put a lifetime cap on how much care they will pay if you get sick, and health insurers can no longer charge you more because you are a woman. Before the Affordable Care Act was law, a majority of states had best-selling plans that engaged in gender rating. For example, a 25-year-old woman could be expected to pay 81 percent more for health insurance than a man, even for a plan that did not include maternity coverage.
5. Pre-Existing Conditions–It is now illegal for insurance companies to deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, such as having had breast cancer or being pregnant. Previously, a woman without health insurance might get pregnant or find a lump and not be able to receive coverage because she had a “pre-existing condition.”
6. Preventive Health Benefits–Most health plans are now required to cover preventive services without making you pay a copay or deductible. Such services include things like: well-woman visits, mammograms, FDA-approved birth control, vaccinations for your child, domestic violence counseling, testing for gestational diabetes and breastfeeding supplies. And all plans offered through the Marketplace must cover a package of essential health benefits, which include maternity and newborn care.
7. Maternity Care–All insurance plans sold on the Insurance Marketplace cover maternity care. Just a few years ago, 68 percent of enrollees in individual market plans lacked maternity coverage, considering that in 2012, the average hospital bill–for each of the 3 million plus women who delivered babies without complications–was more than $23,000.
Navigating the healthcare system can be a challenge, but it’s extremely important to be educated about your rights when it comes to one of the most important things: your health and the health of your family.
Fondly submitted,
The Diversity Committee

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When You Read This America Will Have Been Changed

This is written before the November 2016 Presidential Election in a time of great uncertainty. In the face of this uncertainty it is well to remember the abiding principles that make America great and give us stability as a nation. In the Constitution Daily there is a wonderful article that speaks of the peaceful transfer of power in American government. I have quoted this article now for its learned and comforting message. “Nothing less than a miracle”: The Constitution and the peaceful transition of power, October 21, 2016 by Nicandro Iannacci (an excerpt)–
“Our grand experiment in republican self-government depends on good-faith cooperation. Under the First Amendment, we can protest the government and criticize the outcome of an election, but if we lose the argument, we must accept the results. And that’s what Americans have always done. In his first Inaugural address, President Ronald Reagan praised our collective achievement:
‘To a few of us here today this is a solemn and most momentous occasion, and yet in the history of our nation it is a commonplace occurrence. The orderly transfer of authority as called for in the Constitution routinely takes place, as it has for almost two centuries, and few of us stop to think how unique we really are. In the eyes of many in the world, this every 4-year ceremony we accept as normal is nothing less than a miracle.”
Wishing you all a calm and peaceful holiday season.
Fondly submitted,
For the Diversity Committee

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As November Approaches

As November approaches and with it an
election that may be the most important in
recent history, for our nation and the world, a
few thoughts about leadership are in order. An
interesting book was written by Al Gini and Ronald M. Green
(©2013 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.) The book is titled: 10 Virtues
of Outstanding Leaders: Leadership & Character
The authors list 10 traits vital to leadership for us to
consider. Here are the traits which are certainly worth
reflecting upon at this precarious time in our nation’s history.
The top 10 virtues of outstanding leaders are deep honesty,
moral courage, moral vision, compassion and care, fairness,
intellectual excellence, creative thinking, aesthetic sensitivity,
good timing, and deep selflessness.
 Leadership is more than a title, occupation, or superior
knowledge or skills—it is a non-autocratic relationship
between leaders and followers who have common
interests and objectives. Leaders have power, but they are
committed to their values and high ethical standards.
 Character is the key defining characteristic of leadership.
Ethical leadership stems from good character.
 Good character requires integrity and a sense of duty and
 Ethical leaders put the needs of their followers (or
employees) and customers ahead of their own needs.
 Their greatest concern is the common good.
 The best leaders exhibit most of the key moral virtues, but
they do not need to exhibit all of them.
This list is certainly not all inclusive. Few lists of traits are.
The traits mentioned are none the less vital and worthy of our
consideration. One would be proud to see these traits in our
offspring. Perhaps that is a good test in our decision making. Is
our candidate one with behaviors and traits we would like to
see in our children and grandchildren. No candidate is perfect
but high ethical behavior and ethical standards are essential to
assuming such an important leadership role. Clearly a leader is
not one who fosters hate and division. In our time such a leader
can have a terrible capacity to destroy. That is something, I
think, few of us want.
Fondly submitted,
For the Diversity Committee

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If We Are Only for Ourselves, Who are We?

“As women, we must stand up for
ourselves . . . We must stand up for each
other . . . We must stand up for justice for all.”—
Michelle Obama, first lady of the United States
Hillel says, “If I am not for myself, who will be for
me? But if I am only for myself, who am I” If not
now, when?” Ethics of rhe Fathers, 1:14
As we approach the November 2016 presidential
election, there are voices in our society fanning the
flames of exceptionalism and particularism.
Exceptionalism defines a group as unique in a way
that it often suggests it to be superior. In
particularism the group supports goals helpful to
itself without regard to the effect on others.
The quotes from Michelle Obama and Hillel the
Elder cited above reflect another view. As we
prepare ourselves to vote in November, let us
consider the wisdom of these individuals in guiding
our best reflection. It is so important in these
perilous times
Fondly submitted,
The Diversity Committee

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In Search of Clean Hands

Post World War II the United Nations proposed thirty rights that were universal necessities for every human around the world. In an effort to prevent the same cleansing actions that had been orchestrated by Hitler, the members tried to ensure that no matter which country of origin, all people could have quality of life. It was adopted by the United Nations in 1948. Even during WWII the Allies had adopted the Four Freedoms-freedom of speech, religion, from fear, and from want. So, why in 2016, even in the United States, a country that claims to be the most progressive, most democratic, most accommodating country in the world, do we still have to talk about fair treatment and opportunity for all?

February 15th 2008 the U.S. National Academy of Engineering announced the challenges for 21st century engineers. Experts from around the world met and revealed a list of improvements that could vastly improve the way the entire global community lives. These grand challenges follow: make solar energy economical; provide energy from fusion; develop carbon sequestration methods; manage the nitrogen cycle; provide access to clean water; restore and improve urban infrastructure; advance health informatics; engineer better medicine; reverse-engineer the brain; prevent nuclear terror secure cyberspace; enhance virtual reality; advance personalized learning; and engineer the tools of scientific discovery.

It is doubtful that the American representatives to the engineering conference could have predicted that within 8 years, the citizens of Flint, Michigan would need their help as badly as any developing country in the world. 100,000 people and their offspring have been made irrelevant for a few dollar’s savings. They have been exposed to lead poison because a decision was made to stop purchasing water from Detroit. There was documentation available indicating that the Flint River had 19 times the recommended level of lead presence. Three people have been indicted, with a promise of the attorney general that more people will be named. It is doubtful that watching these people go to trial is a real consolation to families who are worried about the future of their relatives.

These stories of greed and disregard for welfare of communities have been in the news before. By 1962, when Rachel Carson published Silent Spring, we knew that contaminating our water led to disastrous results. Erin Brockovich , was based on a real situation that was investigated in the early 90s. It was not just a movie starring Julia Roberts. There is a reason we don’t use lead based paints any more, and asbestos is used with great caution.

One quote from the engineering academy reports, sums up what I have been trying to say. It states, “A world divided by wealth and poverty, health and sickness, food and hunger, cannot long remain a stable place for civilization to thrive.”   If we are not altruistically driven to make the world more comfortable for the masses because it is a righteous thing to do, perhaps our personal survival and the lives of our own families might provide the impetus to challenge decision makers to not support any actions they would not deem safe and productive for their own children. Will we again allow a few people at the middle and lower rungs of the hierarchy to take the blame when the welfare of an entire community of 100,000 has been compromised? What happened to the buck stops here, Rick Snyder, and all the others in leadership positions?

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