American Culture, Family, Feminism, History, popular culture, Relationships

The Dark Side of Life in the 1950s

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When looking back at past eras, the 1950s is looked upon by many as an idyllic time in American history. The nuclear family headed by a male breadwinner was the desired norm and televisions shows such as Father Knows Best and I Love Lucy were popular. However, there was a dark side to this lifestyle. Women were treated like second-class citizens and some were living unhappily married because their financial and educational options were limited and they were as dependent on their husbands as their children.

The media, in collusion with the government, and sociologists constantly espoused the virtues of family and children and women, who wanted more out of life were looked upon as freaks of nature. However, some women during that era expressed dissatisfaction with their lives and an inarticulated longing for a life beyond their children and husbands. Some of these women were forced out the workforce after World War II and felt resentment that their only option for financial stability was marriage. This inarticulated longing would lead to a major social upheaval towards the end of the 1950s and would be the beginning of the second-wave feminist movement. This movement caused a shift in family values and altered family structure for future generations to come. The 1950s Family Experiment would be short-lived but fondly remembered.

Several factors lead to the forming of the nuclear family. By the end of the 1940s, the divorce rate dropped sharply; the ages of people getting married fell to a 100-year low; and the birth rate soared. Women dropped out of the workforce as soon as they become pregnant and some young women had two or more children in diapers at once. Also during this time, the education gap between young middle-class men and women increased and job segregation for working women and men peaked. Limited educational and job opportunities for women made them more dependent on marriage for their financial well-being.

Young, newly married couples were encouraged to sever their family ties and put all their emotional and financial eggs in the small basket of the immediate nuclear family. Women were told by experts that all their energies should be used for their husbands and children, not aging parents and other relatives. Psychiatrist Edward Strecker and various colleagues argued American boys were infantilized and emasculated by women who were old-fashioned “moms” instead of modern “mothers”.

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Modern mothers placed their parents in nursing homes; old-fashioned mothers took their parents in at the expense of their own “important” nuclear family. A modern mother was not supposed to have friends, a job, or anything or anyone that would take attention from her husband and children. She was also supposed to grant early independence to her male child. It is no wonder that many women who believed in this advice and put it into practice ending up abusing alcohol or tranquilizers over the course of the decade.

Women were encouraged to confine themselves to a very narrow definition of “true” womanhood by a variety of sources such as family education specialists and marriage counselors, columns in women’s magazines, government pamphlets, and above all television. These experts told women during the 1950s that their greatest role on the planet was to be wives and mothers. The role of a “real” woman was to have no interest in a higher education or a career and women were taught by these experts to pity women who had the nerve to want a life beyond being a wife and mother.

Televisions shows such as Donna Reed, Ozzie and Harriet, Leave It to Beaver, and Father Knows Best showed women how much easier their lives would be if their families were like those families and the I Love Lucy show warned women about the perils of what happened to a woman who wanted a career or if she schemed behind her husband’s back (Coontz, 38), The mothers on Leave It to Beaver and Ozzie and Harriet were immaculately dressed with pearls around their necks. Their homes were clean and their children never got into trouble. However, on I Love Lucy, Lucy usually looked terrible by the end of the episode. Her hair was at times standing on top of her head and her clothes filthy from her weekly adventure. Women and their families watched these shows and tried their best to emulate the perfect and bright lives shown to them on a weekly basis.

Noticeably absent from these discussions are the role of Black women during this era. Black women were delegated to the background as housekeepers and nannies, taking care of other women’s children and then going home to take care of their families. So from the beginning, this image of a beautiful, bountiful lady of leisure that keeps her home, children, and herself immaculate was never intended for Black women because Black women never had and were not given those same opportunities. They had to work. But unlike white women, they received help from their extended family. Grandparents, aunts, uncles and other family member assisted in the raising of children. Many parents left their children with family members when they made the trek to the North during the Great Migration and when they got on their feet, sent for their children and the family members who helped them.

However, towards the end of the 1950s, a dramatic shift occurred. Cultural values changed dramatically and the children of these women found the social hypocrisy of their parents sickening. Many young adults and some of their mothers would march in the streets to protest against sexism, racism, and militarism. Minorities and women began to receive the civil rights that were rightfully due to them and more and more women entered the workforce, forcing a dynamic shift in child rearing practices. By the 1970s, husbands and wives had begun to share household duties and women were no longer bound to their homes.

The concept of family has changed and although there have been some issues; it was ultimately for the best.  Women have more rights but divorce is commonplace in current modern society and many children live in one-parent households. Despite the gains of the 1960s, women still face discrimination and do the majority of household work regardless of how many hours they work per week or if they have a partner. But women now have opportunities that would not have been imagined sixty-years ago. Children do not have to see their mothers treated like chattel and America is on the verge of electing the female President of the United States. Nothing remains the same – ever. The constantly changing landscape of the American family owes a lot to the women of the 1950s.

 

 

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black men, black women, Dysfunctional Shit, Feminism, misogynoir

The Rise of the Smart Dumb Ninny

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With the rise of the social media in which anyone with an opinion has a voice, there is a new creature on the rise: The Smart Dumb Ninny. The Smart Dumb Ninny is not gender, class or age specific but he or she is everywhere.

Smart Dumb Ninnies use YouTube videos as a reference when having a heated debate on Facebook.  They also think that the best way to learn history is from memes, movies, and television shows.

Smart Dumb Ninnies consider themselves to be political pundits based on the fact they voted for first time in their lives in 2008  when they voted for current President Obama. But these political pundits could not tell you who are their local senator or representative from the state they reside in.

Smart Dumb Ninnies in particular hate Black Feminists and blame them for the decimation of the black community, global warming, and the War on Terrorism. They believe that these feminists hold secret meetings in basements in inner-cities throughout America plotting the Black man’s demise.

Smart Dumb Ninnies also hate homosexuals with a passion, blaming them for current trends in men’s clothing, and believe that people can become gay if they eat certain food items such as soy.

Smart Dumb Ninnies believe that men are supposed to be charge of all things female and often insert themselves in conversations that have nothing to do with masculinity such as makeup, weave, and reproduction. They also feel as though because they have a penis, no one can tell them anything so they continue to lecture women about periods, childbirth, vaginal discharge, and a lot of women related topics they have no clue about.

The female Smart Dumb Ninny is truly a pitiful creature because she co-signs these ignorant ramblings in hopes of receiving crumbs of affection from her male compadres.  She likes to throw women under the bus on a regular basis for the same shit she is currently doing and it is too stupid to see what a complete hypocrite she is. Often seen attacking black women for wearing weave and makeup while painted to max and woven to death. Often is a single mother but will shame other single mothers to death because at least “My baby daddy gives me his EBT card!”

Unfortunately, there is no cure for The Smart Dumb Ninny virus that has taken over a large portion of the black community. These creatures hiss at the sight of books and cling to their Hidden Color DVDs for dear life.   They are like roaches, when one dies, others multiply.

 

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Beauty, blacks, Editorial, Feminism, misogynoir, popular culture

The Winter Santiago Complex and Black Women

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Black sisterhood is at an all-time low in 2016. Online and offline, I see black women tearing each other to pieces like rabid dogs over the most mundane and pettiest of shit. If you don’t measure up their lofty standards, there is a segment of black women that will shame your ass to hell. They will shame you for wanting a child without being married because unmarried black mothers make them look bad.  They will shame you for not wanting to date outside your race because black women who only want to date black men and give birth to black children are hood rats.  They will shame you for living in the hood (while not offering a dime in assistance or advice how to get out the hood), for being overweight (while being one cheeseburger from being considered fat themselves), and for not being “feminine” enough by their standards (although their standards of femininity is based on white folks standards of femininity and living by white standards is very important). It is pathetic but the shaming of black women by other black women went to a new level with the public shaming of Patrice Brown otherwise known as #teacherbae.

Ms. Brown is a paraprofessional who works for the Atlantic Public School system whose pictures of herself on Instagram turned her into an overnight sensation and an object of ridicule. She was ridiculed because of her attire, which was thought to be too sexy to be around the 4th grade students she taught on a daily basis.  Although all the dresses that were shown were of knee length, long sleeved and covered her to the neck, because she is a voluptuous woman, it became a problem for many people, mainly black women. All this controversy about her clothing style caused the APS to publicly reprimand this woman for the very clothes they knew she wore five days a week.

This young woman could have been fired because of the jealousy and insecurity of masses of black women who will never meet or have any interaction with her and it makes no sense at all but unfortunately, too many black women do not like to see other black women shine.  Living under a system of patriarchy has conditioned them to be very competitive with other women and anytime a black woman receives so much as a crumb of attention that in anyway involves the male gaze, these women come with claws extended with knives.

I call this mentality The Winter Santiago Complex. Remember Winter Santiago from the novel The Coldest Winter Ever by Sister Souljah?  She was truly one of the most selfish female characters written in the history of literature and she has become the standard for female characters in the urban literature genre.  One particular scene from the novel will always stand out in my head. It was the time right after her father had went to jail and her family was back living in the projects. She went to a concert I think and she saw her best friend Natalie in a pink Chanel suit and lost her damn mind. Natalie went off her and told her, quite truthfully, “Nobody can’t have shit but you!”

And there lies the problem with so many black women.  Another black woman cannot have shit without them feeling slighted. She can’t be pretty with a little waist you can span with one hand, big hips and upright breasts. She cannot be an educated sister with the body of a goddess and a face to match. You have to be fat, frumpy, and willing to watch their children when they go out because you know fat bitches don’t have a life.  You have to be an ugly, uneducated hood-rat that they can feel both feel sorry for and contemptuous of.  Because black chicks with The Winter Santiago Complex cannot take competition and need their feet on the necks of black women they deem undesirable. Pitiful.

And Ms. Patrice? You are a bright, beautiful young woman who is out here these trenches teaching black children and for that, I salute you. And if you were my daughter, I would have been on the social media tearing ignorant folks a new asshole for messing with my baby. Shine boo, shine!

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blacks, education, Feminism, History, Sociology

Searching For Assata Shakur

Disclaimer: I wrote this paper back in college when I was filled with fire!

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If asked the question, “How much would you be willing to sacrifice for your beliefs?” the average individual would probably look bewildered. Would you be willing to give up your friends, family, freedom, even possibly your life for a cause that was dear to you? The cynic inside me says, “Probably not.” In American society, people have a tendency to speak with much grandiloquence about their beliefs but when asked to sacrifice for those same beliefs, they crumble. Assata Shakur did not. Assata Shakur is a revolutionary and one of the most wrongly convicted individuals in U.S. history. Her story is a sad chapter in American history, in which race, social class, political affiliation, and gender played a role in her subsequent exile from her homeland.

On May 2, 1973, racial prejudice would forever change the life of Assata Shakur. An incident of what would now be labeled “racial profiling” took place on the New Jersey Turnpike. Ms. Shakur, an active participant in the Black Liberation Army (BLA), was traveling with friends, Malik Zayad Shakur and Sundiata Acoli when state troopers stopped them, reportedly because of a broken headlight. A trooper explained that they looked suspicious because the Vermont license plates on the vehicle they were driving. The three were made to exit the car with their hands up. Suddenly, shots were fired and when it was over, state trooper Werner Foerster and Malik Shakur were killed.

Ms. Shakur and Mr. Acoli were charged with the deaths of state trooper Foerster and Zayd Malik Shakur. While held in jail, she was shackled and chained to a bed, with bullet wounds still in her chest. She was also forced to undergo the jabs of shotgun butts of the New Jersey State troopers and heard their voices shouting Nazi slogans and threats to her life. In the history of New Jersey had a female prisoner ever been treated as she, confined to a men’s prison and placed under a constant twenty-four hour surveillance of her most intimate bodily functions.

Ms. Shakur and Mr. Acoli were eventually sentenced to life plus thirty-three years. Although the verdict was no surprise since they were convicted by an all-white jury, many questioned the racial injustice of the trial because it was riddled with several human rights violations and constitutional errors. The pretrial publicity was extremely negative and African-Americans were purposely excluded from the jury. Even more incredible was the fact Ms. Shakur was shot with her arms in the air, making it anatomically impossible for her to commit the murders she was convicted of.

However, in the country of the United States where there is allegedly freedom, justice, and liberty for all, the only people who have that luxury are white men. Ms. Shakur had the triple jeopardy of being Black, female, and poor and she was a member of a political organization that had been targeted by the CIA and the FBI because of its political views. Any organization that challenges the status quo has to be eliminated at all costs.

Assata Shakur spent six and a half years in prison, two of those in solitary confinement. During that time, she was beaten and tortured on a daily basis. Although there is no mention of rape, she was probably sexually harassed everyday of her imprisonment. While imprisoned, she gave birth to her daughter Kakuya who was taken away from her a week after her birth. In 1979, fearing for her life, she made a daring escape that continues to infuriate the United States government. There was a nationwide search for her but not a trace of her or the people who aided her escape was ever found. In 1984, she was granted political asylum by Fidel Castro, dictator of Cuba and was finally united with her daughter. On May 2, 2005, the federal government issued a statement in which they labeled Ms. Shakur a domestic terrorist. In addition to doing that, the government also increased the bounty on her head from $150,000 to an unprecedented $1,000,000.

When I first read about Ms. Shakur, I cried. I could not believe what this woman went through for fighting for basic human rights. Because of the triple jeopardy of race, sex, and class and her political affiliation, she was unjustly sentenced to jail for a murder she did not commit. According to research, African-American women experience more bias in the courts than White women on the basis that White women are presumed to be good mothers by virtue of marital status (Andersen, p.285) and Black women are not. Black women have been historically stereotyped as sexually deviant troublemakers who need to be controlled.

Also, according to the Labeling Theory, groups with the power to label individuals deviant, exercise total control over what and who is considered deviant. Ms. Shakur was deemed to be deviant by the courts and the U.S. government because of her race, gender, political beliefs, and class status; therefore, she was sentenced to prison without any due process of the law.

While in prison, she received horrific treatment at the hands of her jailers. During her pregnancy, she received no prenatal care and the authorities even tried to starve her so she would miscarry. Although this type of treatment of female prisoners is extreme, most do not receive adequate medical treatment while in prison. According to research, health care in women’s prisons is limited, and prenatal care is nonexistent. If pregnant, female prisoners’ babies are taken right after birth. They are also treated no differently than men in prison. Ms. Shakur experienced this first hand and she was beaten every day the six years she was in prison.

Writing this paper was one of the most emotionally wrenching projects I have ever done. Reading about Ms. Shakur’s experiences brought feelings of pain and anger but my feelings are minuscule when I think about the tears that she wept and still weeps. Imagine being convicted for the murders of two people, one of them your best friend and you are innocent. Imagine your other friend being convicted of the same murders and he was innocent too. Imagine being mentally tortured, beaten, and starved for six years of your life, living in a cage. Imagine giving birth to your daughter and having her taken away a week later. Imagine escaping from prison and being exiled away from your family and friends, knowing that you might not see them or the country of your birth again.

These are things that Assata Shakur experience everyday of her life and knowing that makes me as guilty as the criminal system that wrongly convicted her. I am guilty because I was ignorant of her history and had forgotten about the struggles of her and many African-Americans who fought for equality in this country. This woman in essence, gave her life for a cause she held dear and how many people are willing to that? She was and still is, a true warrior woman in every sense of the word. The only thing I can do to repay Assata and others who have sacrificed their lives in the battle for equality is to raise my children to be strong, productive members of their race who are proud of their heritage, and not afraid to fight for their rights.

A revolutionary woman can’t have no reactionary man. If he’s not about liberation, if he’s not about struggle, if he ain’t about building a strong Black family, if he ain’t about building a strong Black nation, then he ain’t about nothing. – Assata Shakur

 

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