Redoshi- An African-American Woman Kidnapped from Her Homeland and Forced into Marriage

Redoshi is an African woman who was brought to America against her will and forced into slavery. Researchers believe Redoshi was likely born in the 1840s in modern day Benin. At about 12 years of age, her father was killed. Redoshi was taken from her homeland and sailed across the Atlantic Ocean on the Clotilda. The middle passage was a difficult, dangerous and traumatizing experience for the men, women and children aboard. It was typical for African men to be shackled below deck with shackles so painful that they often left welts and weighed the wearer down. Women were sometimes shackled or roped together above or below deck. Sometimes they weren’t roped. Sometimes they were raped by the crew members aboard the ship. Children were also often abused aboard ship.

After enduring the Middle Passage, Redoshi was bought by a man in Alabama where she was forced to work. Redoshi was forced into marriage as a child with an enslaved man. After emancipation, she lived with her daughter into the 1930s.

What makes Redoshi’s story unique is that she was on the last slave ship to come into the United States, she was a woman and she lived so late into the 1930s that video of her exists.

Civil rights activist, Amelia Boynton Robinson wrote a memoire about Redoshi in the 1930s. Zora Neale Hurston also researched Redoshi.

My grandmother was born in the 1920s. My grandmother would have been a teenager while Redoshi was still living. Redoshi’s life overlapped with my grandmother’s life and my grandmother’s life overlapped with mine and my mother’s. Often when people reference antebellum slavery in the United States, it’s spoken of as if it’s ancient history. Truth be told, my generation (millennials) are only a few generations removed from being legal property. In fact, my Great Aunt (who lived to be 101) remembers seeing the relatives of the family that enslaved our family in South Carolina. As a child, she didn’t understand what the connection with this white family was. It wasn’t until she was older that she understood that they were the relatives and descendants of the family that had enslaved her own. That same white family were also her cousins and Great Uncles.

Many African women who were forced to endure the Middle Passage were made voiceless, but research has revealed some of what Redoshi went through.

Many of the racial stereotypes that are pervasive today have their roots in slavery, such as the Jezebel and Mammy.

Slavery doesn’t seem so distant in this context.

 

This story came into the news recently after Dr. Durkin, a researcher, published a paper about Redoshi.

 

 

 

Being a Black Child in a Suburban School

The top is a photo of a black child in Jim Crow America. The child is on a bike with a "colored" sign representing Jim Crow times. A modern day Black child drinks from a water fountain. The caption reads Jim Crow is illegal, but the school system is still unequal.

A recent article describes how Black children in suburban schools’ face disproportionate expulsion, denial from advanced classes, lack of support from teachers and other forms of discrimination. This article came right after a black girl, who was told by the school dance instructor that her skin was too dark to perform, sued the Kansas school district. Yes, the Kansas school district, the same district that was sued in Brown v. Board of Education. These stories may be surprising to some, but not to me.  I grew up in a suburban, all-girls, private school and I can relate to everything that these black students in the article went through.

I know how it feels to be treated like an oddity. I know how it feels to be the only Black girl at the school dances and to never be asked out or danced with because of it. I know how it feels to have teachers and other students assume you’re stupid. Subtle things in that suburban environment will eat away at you every day. Things like teachers who tell white students who earn high grades, how naturally gifted, bright and intelligent they are. Yet with me, the black girl, when I earned high grades, I would get told “you’re a hard, little worker.”  There’s nothing wrong with working hard, but I was a normal teenager, I didn’t work any harder than other students. Yet, I never got the respect that my white peers did from teachers. I may not have been a genius, but neither were my white peers, but no one ever told me that I was smart. Of course, there were also the systemic disadvantages, like not being promoted to advanced classes.

In 8th grade,  everyone was required to study Latin, but in high school, it was an elective. In high school, Latin was considered prestigious because it enhanced your college application and helped with the verbal portion of the SAT because so many English words have Latin roots, such as the words elucidate, malefactor and acquiesce. The high school Latin classes were also situated at our brother school, so all the girls who qualified for the high school Latin classes were eager to take them to learn, to gain an edge on their college applications and to flirt. In order to qualify for the high school Latin classes, you had to earn at least a B+ average in middle school Latin. I earned an A average in Latin. I loved Latin and  I was well above the threshold for qualifying for high school Latin. Of course, I wanted to take the class in high school. Yet, when it came time to pick our classes for high school, my Latin teacher and academic adviser decided that they didn’t think I could handle the pressures of Latin in high school. Apparently, high school Latin at the boy’s school, in addition to taking Spanish class, would be too much for me. Plus, I wouldn’t have an extra study hall. So, they decided not to recommend that I pursue Latin. What they didn’t know was that my mother was very close with the high school Latin instructor at the boy’s school. She reached out to him and told him about my predicament. The Latin instructor  sent an email to the head of the middle school, advocating on my behalf.  In addition, my mother threatened to get the school principal involved, if they didn’t allow me to take the class. So, I was allowed to take the class.

I took the Latin class and I was the only black student. I still have the letter that the high school Latin teacher sent to my parents, stating that I earned a 90% on the final exam, 15 percentage points above the average.

This was a traumatizing experience for me. Not the final exam, not the long hours of studying, but the discrimination. I am grateful that the Latin instructor at the boy’s school advocated for me and I actually grew to greatly respect him. He was a great teacher and person. But, the fact that he even had to advocate for me in the first place was beyond hurtful. Why did it take another white man to vouch for my capability and intelligence, just to get into a class that my white peers were presumed to be worthy of?

This type of discrimination is not unique. It’s pervasive and damaging because after a while, when teachers constantly imply that you’re inferior, stupid and don’t belong in that school, you may begin to believe it yourself. It’s a real concept, it’s called stereotype threat. This is part of the reason why I’m considering homeschooling my children, if I ever have any. I can’t leave them to the mercy of the policymakers in the city public schools, who want to pull funding and force students to learn in overcrowded classrooms. I can’t subject my children to going to predominately white, suburban, private schools where they’re treated like an ‘other’ constantly either.

Sometimes, being a black kid in school is just hard and my heart really goes out to the youngsters. It’s like there is no place for us, sometimes.

 

Brett Kavanaugh Is the Rule, Not the Exception

As someone who grew up in an elite, predominately white world and attended elite, mostly white institutions, I knew many Brett Kavanaughs. I also know the privilege that they get. I know the world of drunken parties, I know the world of misogyny and I’ve been firsthand witness to the privileged, white male club. Let me tell you, Kavanaugh’s behavior is the rule and not the exception.

I had the misfortune of watching the Senate hearing, which purported to examine allegations of sexual misconduct on the part of Kavanaugh. For those of you who don’t know, a woman has accused Kavanaugh (Supreme Court Nominee) of attempting to sexually assault her while at a party in High school. Kavanaugh has categorically denied the allegations, while the accuser has said that she is 100% certain that Kavanaugh did commit this attempted sexual assault. She also participated in a lie detector test and has called for an FBI investigation. Kavanaugh has not openly consented to an FBI investigation. Other women have also come forth and accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault. Learn more about the situation here.

Today, both the alleged sexual assault victim and Kavanaugh (alleged sexual assaulter and Supreme Court nominee) were “examined” by the Senate Committee on the Judiciary. The hearing came off more as a partisan debate than an examination*.

During the hearing, some of the Republicans on the committee claimed that the Democrats waited too late to present the information about the alleged sexual assault and that the Democrats are merely trying to delay the Supreme Court nomination for political reasons (Merrick Garland?). Some of the Democrats on the Committee called for an FBI investigation and a halt to the Senate Confirmation hearings. In turn, some of the Republicans claimed that an FBI investigation wouldn’t do anything anyway, because all the FBI does is review evidence and they do not draw conclusions. Thus, an FBI examination is not necessary, in their minds. (Side note: If an FBI investigation isn’t necessary, why was it necessary during the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court nomination process?)

I listened to the alleged sexual assault victim present her story and then I listened to Kavanaugh present his story. What stood out to me about Kavanaugh’s discussion was that he constantly interrupted the committee members, particularly the Democratic members and the women. He evaded and circumvented questions about an FBI investigation and when asked if he’d ever been aggressive while drunk, he responded “the answer to that is basically no. I don’t really know what you mean by that. What are you talking about? No, is the basic answer unless you’re talking about something that I’m not aware of.” Raised eyebrows … The gentlemen doth protest too much me thinks.

And back and forth they went all day.

Overall, an FBI investigation would clear up a lot of this, but of course Kavanaugh is a well-to-do, high-powered white man and men like him have privileges that most people, especially people of color, don’t have. He’s assumed innocent.

Five young black boys who were accused of raping a white female jogger in New York, were not regarded with the privilege of assumed innocence when Donald Trump called for their deaths, even after they were proven innocent of the crime. Immigrants and refugees are not assumed innocent when they flee their countries to come to the United States. No, they are presumed to be rapists and threats to the wellbeing of “fine, upstanding Americans,” like Kavanaugh.

I attended a competitive, predominately white school and I remember being accosted by drunken (white) men and boys and these same men went on to top colleges and are now professionals in the courtroom, the hospital and the political sphere. There was a particularly serious incident that occurred in my school community where a young woman (white), who had been drinking, was placed in sexually suggestive positions and photographed without her consent, by privileged, young, white men. Incidentally the only boy in the situation to speak against the mistreatment and report it to school officials was black.

When you are in a predominately white, male-centric environment, men like Kavanaugh are the rule, not the exception. At many of these elite schools, there is a culture of white masculinity, where men and boys are compelled to behave in ways that subjugate women and reassert their dominance. It is acceptable (and sometimes encouraged) for white men and boys to make racist jokes, harass women and drink to their heart’s content. It’s like a super-frat culture where men like Kavanaugh are made to feel invincible because of their position. It’s where all the political correctness of the world is disregarded and men like Kavanaugh can step back in time to the 1940s and 50s and enjoy the notion of being at the apex of privilege. They can go back to a time before there was such a thing as sexual harassment, so touching women without their consent is okay. They can go back to a time where it’s okay to make racist jokes. They can go back to a time where they can get drunk and belligerent because well, who’s going to stop them?

It’s a culture that elicits predatory behavior from privileged men. The fine, upstanding men that you see at work and school could be the same ones who, when they step into this culture, turn into monsters.

We, who are not at the top of hierarchy, know this to be true. We know the Kavanaughs and we know the privileges they have.

There have been many “fine, upstanding men,” who have preyed on vulnerable women when they could. In fact, some of our founding fathers did far worse than Kavanaugh, but the culture of that time permitted them to get away with it, just as the culture of many elite schools permits men like Kavanaugh to get away with it. (Side note: Many African-Americans carry the blood of fine, upstanding white men who preyed upon vulnerable women.)

So just to be clear, Kavanaugh is not an exception. He’s quite the norm and that’s the saddest thing.

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer, this is not about ALL white men. It’s only about privileged white men who use their position to victimize others. In addition, men of color also perpetrate. The difference is how privileged men who are white are treated. Their privilege allows them to be assumed innocent.

*For the record, I am neither affiliated with the Democratic party nor the Republican party. If I had a choice, I would rather not have partisan politics and would prefer for citizens to vote for whomever is best for the job, as unbelievable as that sounds. However, in the current political climate, the Democratic party is a lesser evil, to me.

Race: National Geographic

Thank you Abagond! National Geographic has put out a race issue to make amends for their past racist portrayals of Black people and other people of color. National geographic routinely showed nude Black women and other women of color and displayed them as though they were not women, but animals.

See here. 

So, to make up for their racist past, the April 2018 issues of National Geographic displays a photo of two mixed-raced siblings, one who can pass for white, the other who cannot. The caption reads:

These twin sisters make us rethink everything we know about race” 

As Abagond said,

“Huh? One of the sisters could pass for White, but that stuff has been going on for hundreds of years. Who is this “we”?

The bottom line is Black people have known about the whole passing situation for centuries because we’ve lived with it. MOST African-Americans have European ancestry and most of us have stories of relatives who could pass for white and others who could not. There’s nothing to rethink on the part of Black folks…we’ve been knowing National Geographic’s racist editorials were wrong.

For decades Black people dealt with the reality of race, we knew white men were sleeping with and producing offspring with Black and mixed women, so most of us have always known that the lines of the race were more blurred. Duh…

Here is a classic story of a woman whose mother passed for white, so National Geographic you’re about a few centuries too late on this one:

 

 

via National Geographic’s racism

March for Our Lives: Naomi Wadler

Naomi Wadler is an 11-year-old student who led a walkout from her elementary school ,  on March 14, 2018, to protest gun violence. The walkout lasted 18 minutes. 17 minutes were to honor the 17 victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas (MSD) school shooting, which occurred on February 14, 2018. 1 minute of the 18 minutes was to honor the shooting of  Courtlin Arrington, an African-American girl who was killed in an Alabama High school after the MSD shooting in Florida. On March 24, 2018, she spoke at the “March for Our Lives,” rally in Washington, D.C.

View her speech below:

“I am here today to represent Courtlin Arrington. I am here today to represent Hadiya Pendleton. I am here today to represent Tiana Thompson, who at just 16 was shot dead in her home, here in Washington, D.C. I am here today to acknowledge and represent the African-American girls whose stories don’t make the front page of every national newspaper…whose stories don’t lead on the evening news. I represent the African-American women, who are victims of gun violence, who are simply statistics instead of vibrant, beautiful girls, full of potential. It is my privilege to be here today. I am indeed full of privilege; my voice has been heard. I’m here to acknowledge their stories, to say they matter, to say their names because I can and because I was asked to be. For far too long these names, these black girls and women have been just numbers. I’m here to say never again for those girls too. I am here to say that everyone should value those girls too. People have said that I am too young to have these thoughts on my own. People have said that I’m a tool of some nameless adult. It’s not true. My friends and I might still be 11 and we might still be in elementary school, but we know. We know life isn’t equal for everyone and we know what is right and wrong. We also know that we stand in the shadow of the Capitol and we know that we have 7 short years until we too have the right to vote. So I am here today to honor the words of Toni Morrison. ‘If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one to write it.’ I urge everyone here and everyone who hears my voice to join me in telling the stories that aren’t told. To honor the girls, the women of color, who were murdered at disproportionate rates in this nation. I urge each of you to help me write the narrative for this world and understand so that these girls and women are never forgotten.” ~ Naomi Wadler

 

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