Who Suffers the Cold?

It was four degrees Fahrenheit tonight and getting colder. I thought of those who choose or are forced by circumstances to live “on the street.” They are called the homeless and some seek the streets because of fear of shelters and other group environments. They include the severely mentally ill, those too poor to pay for housing and others with no social safety net. Often they do not have warm clothing to brave the frigid temperature. They may be found in hospital emergency rooms suffering from frost bite. Some sleep in cars and can only bathe in a restaurant restroom, if at all. Some die unable to protect themselves having not found warmth and shelter. As a nation we are told we have great prosperity at our doorstep; but for others, there appears to be no sharing of the promises of wealth and success of our country .
Let us look at the demographics of homelessness in Cleveland and find a way to include them in the promise that America will be great again.
We see that minorities are over represented among the homeless, and this reflects the great social and economic vulnerability of minority groups. Before we all can sleep in true warmth, peace and comfort, let us remember those who cannot. We must dedicate ourselves to finding true solutions for social inequality in 2018.

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Home for the Holidays, Fantasy or Reality?

Many of us fondly remember the pictures by Norman Rockwell that seem to define an ideal of family life in America. Think of that Thanksgiving scene with the turkey being carved. Young and old together in health and harmony. This is an idealized image to which many of us aspired. How many inter-generational families care for their elders and who are they? Let us look at some demographics:
• Approximately 43.5 million caregivers have provided unpaid care to an adult or child in the last 12 months.
• About 34.2 million Americans have provided unpaid care to an adult age 50 or older in the last 12 months.
• The majority of caregivers (82%) care for one other adult, while 15% care for 2 adults and 3% for 3 or more adults.
• Approximately 39.8 million caregivers provide care to adults (aged 18+) with a disability or illness or 16.6% of Americans.
• About 15.7 million adult family caregivers care for someone who has Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia.
• The value of services provided by informal caregivers has steadily increased over the last decade, with an estimated economic value of $470 billion in 2013, up from $450 billion in 2009 and $375 billion in 2007.
• 65% of care recipients are female, with an average age of 69.4. The younger the care recipient, the more likely the recipient is to be male. 45% of recipients aged 18-45 are male, while 33% of recipients aged 50 or higher are male.
• Males may be sharing in care giving tasks more than in the past, but females still shoulder the major burden of care.
• On average, caregivers spend:
 13 days each month on tasks such as shopping, food preparation, housekeeping, laundry, transportation, and giving medications;
 6 days per month on feeding, dressing, grooming, walking, bathing, and assistance toileting;
 13 hours per month researching care services or information or disease, coordinating physician visits or managing financial matters.
• Of family caregivers who provide complex chronic care:
 46% perform medical and nursing tasks;
 More than 96% provide help with activities of daily living (ADLs) such as personal hygiene, dressing and undressing, getting in and out of bed, or instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs) such as taking prescribed medications, shopping for groceries, transportation, or using technology, or both.
• Distribution of caregiver age:
 Average age, 49.2 years old
 48% of caregivers are 18-49 years old
 34% of caregivers are 65+ years old
• Distribution of care recipient age:
 14% of care recipients are 18-49 years old
 47% of care recipients are 75+ years old
• Individual adult caregivers in the US identify their race/ethnicity as the following:
 White: 62%
 African American: 13%
 Hispanic (non-White, non-African American): 17%
 Asian American: 6%
• Hispanic (non-White, non-African American) caregivers have the highest reported prevalence of care-giving at 21%. Caregiver prevalence among other racial/ethnic groups are as follows:
 African American: 20.3%
 Asian American: 19.7%
 White: 16.9%
• White caregivers are on average older (52.5 years old) than their counterparts among other races/ethnicities. The average age of caregivers among other racial/ethnic groups are as follows:
 Asian American: 46.6 years old
 African American: 44.2 years old
 Hispanic (non-White, non-African American): 42.7 years old
• Hispanic (non-White, non-African American) and African American caregivers experience higher burdens from care giving and spend more time care giving on average than their White or Asian-American peers. The percentage of high burden caregivers care giving time by racial/ethnic groups are as follows:
 African American: 57%, 30 hours per week
 Hispanic (non-White, non-African American): 45%, 30 hours per week
 White: 33%, 20 hours per week.
 Asian American: 30%, 16 hours per
• More than half of African American caregivers find themselves “sandwiched” between caring for an older person and a younger person under age 18, or caring for more than one older person. African American caregivers are also more likely to reside with the care recipient and spend an average of 20.6 hours per week providing care. In addition, 66 percent of African American caregivers are employed full or part-time.
• The needs of care recipients vary by race/ethnicity. African-American caregivers (41%) are more likely to provide help with more than three ADLs than white caregivers (28%) or Asian Americans (23%). Hispanic (non-White, non-African American): 17%.
By examining the above statistics we see that home care of the elderly is disproportionately found in African American and Hispanic American communities. The reasons are complex and we can write on this further. In the meantime, Happy Holidays to all and I hope you have the special days you wish for.
Fondly submitted,
For the Diversity Committee
Feel free to comment on this article at our Diversity Blog, https://aauwhhl.wordpress.com.
AAUW Diversity Policy: In principle and practice, AAUW values and seeks a diverse membership. There shall be no barriers to full participation in this organization on the basis of sex, gender, identity, race, creed, age, sexual orientation, national origin, disability, or class. Membership is not by invitation

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Now That We Have Equity in Admission to Nursing Homes We Wonder at Their Quality.

The tragedy of the Hollywood Hills nursing home in Hollywood, Florida during Hurricane Irma brought attention to the conditions in nursing homes populated largely by Medicaid-dependent residents. In an article from 2011 we learn that the former steering of minority dependent elders to unlicensed boarding homes has decreased and admission to nursing homes increased. But this reflects a larger issue. Increasingly, Medicaid is under attack and funding cuts are being called for. This will surely impact the quality of care and may have already impacted the quality of care at the Hollywood Hills facility. So as affluent non-minority elders choose less restrictive assisted care facilities, minority residents find themselves dependent on the budgets that Medicaid makes possible. This should be a source of concern as further and further calls for Medicaid cuts will surely endanger an already social, physically and economically vulnerable population.
“The Changing Demographics of Nursing Home Care: Greater Minority Access…Good News, Bad News” (2011)
A major public policy goal in the United States is “rebalancing” the long-term care system–reducing what was formerly, for many people, a near-total reliance on nursing facilities and increasing the use of home and community-based alternatives. While rebalancing has begun to change the long-term care system, its benefits have not been equally shared. Recent research indicates that older people who belong to minority groups are living in nursing homes in larger numbers than ever before, but partly because home and community-based alternatives are not available to them. There is a sense of irony and déjà vu in these findings. Thirty-five years ago, the under representation of racial and ethnic minorities in nursing homes was a topic of concern and litigation challenged the racial steering of African Americans into unlicensed boarding homes. Now, the patterns are reversed. White Americans are moving into assisted living facilities (which are not regulated by the federal government), and minorities are moving into nursing facilities.
The Growing Shift to Home and Community-Based Care
Many older people and people with disabilities who need long-term care services prefer non-institutional settings. Government payers like non-institutional services because they are less costly than nursing homes that are certified for participation in the Medicare or Medicaid programs, or both. The re balancing movement, which brings together both sets of interests, has met with considerable success. Between 1995 and 2008, the percentage of Medicaid long-term care dollars spent on home and community-based services increased from 19% to 42%. Medicaid remains the primary payer for care in nursing facilities.
Minority Access to Long-Term Care Has Increased
Recent research regarding racial and ethnic minorities in nursing homes finds that between 1998 and 2008, the number of elderly Hispanic people living in nursing homes increased by 54.9%, the number of elderly Asians living in nursing homes increased by 54.1%, and the number of elderly African Americans living in nursing homes increased by 10.8%. During the same ten-year period, the number of white Americans living in nursing homes declined by 10.2%.
Using federal nursing home assessment data and census information, the researchers find that the number and percentage of minority group nursing home residents “grew at a considerably faster rate than the overall minority population between 1999 and 2008.” In contrast, the number and percentage of white nursing home residents declined nationwide.
Changing demographics help explain the changing population of nursing homes. But the researchers also describe greater barriers to home and community-based alternatives for older people who are members of minority groups. Their analysis shows that older white Americans “may have more varied choices of care in the communities and may have been better able to afford alternatives to nursing homes, such as assisted living facilities.”
A cause of the disparities may be financial. Even though approximately 131,000 people living in assisted living use Medicaid home and community-based waivers to help pay for their stay, the vast majority of assisted living residents, 869,000, pay privately.
Historic Concern With Race Discrimination In Nursing Homes
Thirty-five years ago, the public policy concern was racial discrimination in nursing homes. Senator Frank Moss and Val Halamandaris, in their 1977 book, Too Old, Too Sick, Too Bad, identified cost, social customs and language, and personal choice as three factors explaining minorities’ under-representation in nursing homes, but concluded that race discrimination was the most important factor. Chapter 7 was entitled “No Vacancy for Minority Groups.”
In 1977, the Department of Health Education and Welfare (the predecessor agency to the Department of Health and Human Services) reported that in 1969, white Medicaid beneficiaries used nursing home services at a rate five times greater than minority beneficiaries. In contrast, in 1969, only 20% more was spent on in-patient hospital care for white Medicare beneficiaries than for racial minority Medicare beneficiaries.
Litigation 30 years ago addressed racial discrimination against minorities in nursing homes. In 1980, elderly African American residents of Shelby County, Tennessee filed a lawsuit challenging a racially dual-track system of long-term care. Hickman v. Fowinkle, C.A. No. 80-2014 (W.D. Tenn. Filed Jan. 11, 1980), alleged that elderly African Americans were denied access to licensed Medicaid-approved nursing homes, which served mainly white Americans, and were instead placed in inferior, unlicensed, and unregulated boarding homes, which did not provide the level of care they needed. Plaintiffs alleged that they were placed in the boarding homes by their relatives after referral by the state Department of Human Services, although they were eligible for and needed nursing home care. They sued the Tennessee Departments of Human Services and Public Health along with twelve individually named nursing homes. A Consent Judgment, filed August 1, 1985, required the Tennessee Medicaid agency to conduct compliance and complaint reviews under Title VI of the
Civil Rights Act and to promulgate waiting list regulations, enforcement regulations, and residential home regulations.
The good news in the new study is that members of racial minorities have better access to nursing home care, which in some cases is the only realistic long-term care option. The bad news is that disparities in access to non-institutional care may be a partial cause. The Affordable Care Act offers state Medicaid programs expanded options for providing non-institutional long-term care. As advocates work with their states to implement these provisions, all parties involved should be attentive to promoting equity in access to these alternatives to institutionalization.” * From a Study of Medicaid Utilization 2011 http://www.medicareadvocacy.org “The Changing Demographics of Nursing Home Care Greater Minority Access Good News Bad News”

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Race and Recovery After Hurricane Harvey

We are comforted by the images of the unity and resilience of the people of Houston, Texas after Hurricane Harvey. It will be those traits that will be so important in the recovery from the torrential rains and flooding that devastated Houston and other Texas and regional communities. Here, in an article by Oliver McAteer (Metro.co.uk Wednesday 30 Aug 2017 5:17 pm), we see the discussion of another issue.
Understanding who is most affected by natural disaster and what this teaches us is of great importance in our attempt to achieve and maintain social justice both in the face of natural disaster and in the everyday lives of all people. Black Americans and poor people will be hit the hardest by Hurricane Harvey, a UK researcher has said.
Mainstream media is painting a picture of unity and resilience in the face of adversity, but it is race and social class, which will determine the impact of the storm—just like they did during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, says Dr. Anna Hartnell.
The Birkbeck, University of London lecturer, and author of After Katrina: Race, Neoliberalism and the End of the American Century said a number of factors put black Americans at risk of suffering greater repercussions from Harvey.
She told Metro US: ‘Although Texas itself is more central to the American imagination than Louisiana–New Orleans in particular has been constructed as a kind of pariah–it is nonetheless home to pockets of extreme poverty. In Houston 30 percent of residents live below the poverty line. And, like New Orleans and indeed most other urban centers in the US, poverty in Houston is overwhelmingly and disproportionately racialized.
‘Race and social class will determine the impact of storm’
‘Cheaper land tends to also be floodplains in flood-prone areas. Car and home ownership are measures of short term and long term resilience with respect to disasters like Hurricane Harvey, and just as with Hurricane Katrina, people of color in Texas are far less likely to own cars that might enable them to evacuate or homes on which they can claim insurance and rebuild later on.
‘Black Americans are also much more likely to live in undervalued neighborhoods which will secure fewer recovery dollars down the line, which are then in turn less likely to be able to return and regroup, and so are vulnerable to gentrification—as was the case in New Orleans after Katrina.’
Dr. Hartnell said it is a ‘great myth that disasters are social levelers’ and Donald Trump is only perpetuating this stereotype. She explained that waving around the Lone Star State flag and shouting, ‘it happened to Texas and Texas can handle anything’, obscures the fact that ‘resilience is not created equal but rather something that is built into people and communities according to relative wealth and status’.
Almost as soon as the New Orleans metro area began to fill with water in the late summer of 2005, following the catastrophic breaching of the levees by Hurricane Katrina, the story was one about race and class. What is striking about the mainstream coverage of Hurricane Harvey, by contrast, is that it is largely being presented as illustrative of the great myth that disasters are social levelers.
Houston is also home to a number of oil refineries, some of which have been damaged by the storm or have had to be shut down, leading to the emission of potentially hazardous and carcinogenic pollutants. Again, just like Louisiana’s petrochemical corridor, which has been dubbed “cancer alley,” the communities living closest to these sites are low-income communities of color. They are exposed to these pollutants on a daily basis, an injustice that some commentators describe as ‘environmental racism’, but the risks have been enormously exacerbated by the storm.

Dr. Hartnell added: ‘So beneath the narrative of resilience and unity that the mainstream media and the US government and authorities have done their best to circulate, the reality is that race and class disparities will determine the impact of the storm just as dramatically and unjustly as they did in 2005.’

Fondly submitted,
For the Diversity Committee

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How Repealing the ACA Will Affect Minorities

Heights-Hillcrest-Lyndhurst AAUW, May 2017
As the current administration attempts to end the Affordable Care Act, the ultimate impact of such an act remains unclear. Here is a piece that describes the possible negative impact on minorities and the most vulnerable in our nation. Is this what our nation wants? I hope not.
How Repealing the ACA Will Affect Minorities                                                                                        Fortune Magazine, January 10, 2017
Jeremy Quittner, a writer for Fortune.com’s Venture channel.
“The new Republican Congress will soon attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
While their replacement plan is currently unknown—possible ideas include a system of tax credits or refunds and health savings accounts linked to high-deductible health care plans—broadly speaking, rolling back President Obama’s signature law is likely to cause confusion and chaos for the health care market.
Lacking a replacement strategy by Congress, an estimated 18 million people who obtained coverage since 2013 via new state and federally administered exchanges are likely to have their coverage thrown into limbo.
Certainly whites made up the biggest group of newly insured Americans under the ACA, with 9 million new people gaining coverage. But poorer minorities also benefited dramatically from provisions in the ACA, including an expansion of Medicaid that provided health care subsidies for many low-income people.
Three million African Americans and 4 million Hispanics–the minority group most likely to lack health insurance–accessed coverage through the ACA. As a result, these groups saw uninsured rates drop 11.8 percentage points and 11.3 percentage points, respectively. That’s according to a 2016 report from the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, the principal advisor to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Other minorities, such as LGBT people, benefited in different ways. The health care act forbids health care providers who take funding from the HHS from discriminating on the basis of sexual or gender orientation. It allowed same-sex families to apply for joint coverage. It also removed lifetime caps on care for chronic conditions, such as HIV, where the annual cost of treatment can be very high.
These groups will continue to be vulnerable without the ACA or something like it, particularly because of its anti-discrimination provisions.
As it is, there are major disparities in the mortality and morbidity rates of black and white Americans. A report published in October by the centrist Brookings Institution highlights some of the statistics: black infants die at twice the rate of their white counterparts—a gap that increases, rather than decreases, as black families become more affluent and educated; black men have the shortest life expectancy of any group; and college-educated whites outlive both black men and women with a high school education or less by a decade or more.
The reasons are varied, and not all a direct result of explicit discrimination — broader economic problems, such as housing inequality and access to healthy food, contribute as well. But unconscious bias has been shown to influence the care black patients receive.
“When compared to whites, black patients are referred to see specialists less often, receive less appropriate preventive care such as mammography and flu vaccines, receive fewer kidney and bone marrow transplants, receive fewer anti-retroviral drugs for HIV, receive fewer antidepressants for diagnosed depression, and are admitted less often than whites for similar complaints of chest pain,” the report finds.
A recent Kaiser Permanente report shows that other minorities, including Hispanics and Native Americans, also have disproportionately bigger challenges accessing and using health care than whites.
If the ACA is repealed, it will cost the economy about $350 billion over the next 10 years, according to a recent Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget report, and it would leave no revenue left over for a replacement plan.
While the ACA was not a perfect solution, it laid the groundwork not only for opening up access to health care, but for tackling ways to make health care more equitable for everyone. Without it, and with no revenue for a new plan, the health care environment is likely to revert to the way it was prior to 2010. And in that environment, minorities will continue to suffer most.”
Fondly Submitted by the Diversity Committee

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We Need To Learn History More Than Ever

With growing concern about social manipulation in our society there is a great need to teach history in a way that sensitizes us to differentiating propaganda from information that can be verified and reflected upon in a mature and discerning manner. Here in a piece by Marie Myung-OkLee, published in Quartz, we read her well considered views on the need to study history and develop the skills of critical and informed thinking.

Marie Myung-OkLee, December 2, 2016
“As a novelist and creative-writing professor, I believe in the importance of teaching college students how to read and write fiction. But the undergraduate course I myself found the most formative—the one that maps my daily intellectual path decades later—was not a writing or English class, but a seemingly quotidian course at Brown University called “History 52: The survey of American history from Reconstruction to Nixon.”
On the first day of class, the white-haired professor blasted Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA as we walked in. He asked us point-blank, “What does it mean to be an American?” I had come armed with a notebook and pen, ready to passively receive information. Instead, we were being prompted to really engage with history—a first for many of us in the classroom.
The history class gave me the tools that would help me make sense of the worlds I was trying to write about, both in fiction and nonfiction. I worry that too many young people today are not being equipped with these tools—ones that will be of the utmost importance as they come of age under the presidency of Donald Trump.
Between the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 academic school years, undergraduate enrollment in history classes fell by 7.6%, according to a survey this year from the American Historical Association. The field has also seen a decline in history majors in the past few years. Historian Sheyda Jahanbani has been monitoring the enrollments crisis closely at her institution, the University of Kansas. “Our enrollments are down 59% from 10 years ago,” she said.
James Grossman, the executive director of the American Historical Society, confirmed via email that broadly, “History enrollments are indeed declining.” This leads me to wonder about the relationship between a culture that places less value on history and that of an electorate that embraced a nativist, white-supremacist platform that played on false nostalgia and longing for a “better” past.
History classes matter because they help students learn to question the stories that are handed down to us. History classes matter because they help students learn to question the
stories that are handed down to us. In that survey class I took decades ago, through textbooks, archival materials, and even novels, we reexamined the history I thought I knew—from the post-bellum Reconstruction era to “separate but equal,” World War II, Vietnam, and the cultural upheaval of the 1960s. As we went beyond the usual primary versus secondary sources, we looked critically at how historical narratives are constructed, probing them for weaknesses and false assumptions. We learned to ask whose interest a given narrative served, and what tools different historians had used to come to their conclusions. It was entirely different than the write-down-and-memorize-the-dates learning we’d done in high-school history class. It soon dawned on me that the “good old days” that older people were always talking about had never really existed. Their nostalgia was real, for sure, but each period had its injustices and complexities.
For my final paper, I decided to use my parents’ experience in 1950s Birmingham under anti-Asian immigration laws and Jim Crow to discuss the rise of the Civil Rights movement. I’d never thought of myself and my family as being a part of history, but the teaching assistant in my class liked the idea and pushed me to think more deeply about my subject. I learned to become comfortable with the idea that history is the story of everyday people—not just US presidents and generals, but the individuals who comprise movements and eras. And so I began to examine all the history that had shaped my parents’ immigrant “success” story: how a fresh outburst of racism and xenophobic fervor in the 1920s had led to a second rise of the Ku Klux Klan and anti-immigration laws that led, decades later, to the deportation orders my parents received the day I was born.
Today, in a time of economic uncertainty, many students are being encouraged to skip history and other liberal arts classes in favor of a practical STEM focus. But this election has shown that nothing could be more practical for Americans than a deep immersion in our country’s history.
As The New York Times reported, our president-elect demonstrates a “willful lack of interest in history.” For example, he credulously and bombastically stated on the campaign trail that “our African American communities are absolutely in the worst shape they’ve ever been in before. Ever. Ever. Ever.” (Those familiar with Jim Crow, the Birmingham bombings—oh, and slavery—would beg to differ.)
Despite Trump’s ignorance of history—or perhaps because of his willingness to manipulate it to suit his own purposes—he won. Pundits were quick to heap the responsibility for his win on the “less educated,” resorting to the well-worn trope of the gullible working-class rube easily swayed by the false populist; a narrative that “seems” right. But a closer look at the voter breakdown, as
easily swayed by the false populist; a narrative that “seems” right. But a closer look at the voter breakdown, as our History 52 professor would have had us do, uncovers contradictory evidence.
It’s true that Trump was favored by voters without college degrees. But he also won among voters with some college or an associate’s degree. Even more strikingly, college graduates voted for him almost as often as they did Clinton: 45% to her 49%, according to The New York Times exit polls, while white college graduates actually preferred Trump. These demographic breakdowns suggest the issue may be less about a lack of higher education and more about the direction in which higher education has been heading over recent decades.
Perhaps it was no coincidence that Trump made his historical pronouncements about African Americans while in North Carolina, a state whose governor, Pat McCrory, is famously leading a charge to incentivize enrollments in “job-friendly” classes and majors, with a focus in STEM. In a 2013 radio interview, McCrory averred humanities classes were fine in principle, “but I don’t want to subsidize that if that’s not going to get someone a job.”
Do we want higher education merely to produce workers, or do we want students equipped with the skills to understand, question, create? Do we want higher education merely to produce workers, or do we want students equipped with the skills to understand, question, create? History does much more than prepare people to become professional historians. It teaches us how to think—that is, how to do the high-level analysis that is essential for an informed society. It requires analysis of data and deep research, as well as the use of archival and primary sources. Such skills are absolutely critical in an era that is increasingly characterized by the relentless bombardment of information.
This election in particular has been plagued by misinformation. First, there is the preponderance of fake news that “seems” true. Our professor helped us realize that just because an article is published doesn’t necessarily mean it’s legitimate. Yet many fake stories this election cycle—including ones intended as over-the-top satire—were quickly shared on social platforms, their virality creating an aura of legitimacy. Anyone could download a GIF of a red banner with BREAKING NEWS! on it and engineer her own news story.
Legitimate news sources can also go astray. The Washington Post recently began an article about FBI director James Comey with this lead: “From Elliot Ness to Clarice Starling, the image of the FBI—unflappable, smart and relentlessly fair—has been sterling.” This statement omits years of troubled history at the federal agency, especially of former director J. Edgar Hoover. (And Ness actually wasn’t even an FBI agent: He was employed by the US Treasury.)
Nor can Americans afford to treat the words of public figures uncritically. Former mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani declared
Trump’s win “one of the greatest victories for the people of America since Andrew Jackson,” a reference that takes on new meaning if one is aware of Jackson’s history as a slave trader and a proponent of Indian genocide.
Perhaps it is time to take some of our obsession with STEM and redirect a portion of that enthusiasm to the old-fashioned study of history. As Grossman of the AHA points out, “One of the many lessons that the current campaign has been teaching us is that historical thinking and historical understanding is imperative to civic culture.”
Expanding the study of history could be an essential bulwark against the rising tide of misinformation, manipulation, and lies. A frustrated President Obama said November 17 of the preponderance of fake news and misleading rhetoric on social media and TV news, “If everything seems to be the same and no distinctions are made, then we don’t know what to protect. We won’t know what to fight for.” In the post-factual fight, understanding history is our most important weapon”.
Fondly submitted,
For the Diversity Committee

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“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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