Wednesday, February 15, 2017
On the Origins of Black History Month: Dating back to the 1920s, Black History Month originally began as "Negro History Week." Carter G. Woodson, a black historian who was only the 2nd African American to graduate with a Ph.D. from Harvard (after W. E. B. Du Bois), first proposed the idea to coincide with the birthdays of President Lincoln (February 12th) and Frederick Douglass (February 14th). And because Douglass was one of the first African Americans to visit the White House (with Lincoln in 1862), the concept of "Negro History Week" made a great deal of socio-cultural sense. Although "Negro History Week" did not officially become Black History Month until the 1970s, its primary purpose remained the same. And that was to teach history through biography. In other words, school children (of all backgrounds) ought to be made aware of the special contributions that black Americans have made to U.S. History.
Sunday, January 15, 2017
On Microagression Theory: Perhaps this psychological theory amounts to nothing more than self-victimization, or perhaps it reveals some deeper truths about the basic super-culture that drives modern, Western capitalism. Originating in the 1970s, which was a decade that saw the Post-WWII block of American hegemony start to fracture (think Vietnam), it's a theory that ultimately gave rise to major sociopolitical concepts of the 1980s like "political correctness" and "identity politics." Nevertheless, microagressions can assume a wide variety of forms, as they encapsulate everything from casual comments about race, class, age, ability, or sex/gender to unconscious actions indicating fear of "otherness." Examples of microagressions may include something like "what's up with your accent?" or "why are Asians such good students?" These statements can be collectively considered indications of a dominant culture acting against perceived threats to its power. Yet like any theory involving cultural psychology, if taken too far, pointing out microagressions can begin to limit free speech.
Friday, December 30, 2016
On the Stages of Grief: Developed by Swiss psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in 1969, the stages of grief consist of five basic levels. A popular way of describing these levels involves the acronym DABDA, which stands for denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Since Kubler-Ross spent time working with terminally ill patients, much of her early psychiatric research was published in her first book On Death and Dying. For the most part, she was motivated by the lack of medical school curricula that covered the topic of death (especially from the perspective of the mind). Thus, after a variety of patient interviews conducted at University of Chicago's medical school, Kubler-Ross was able to compile a series of lectures on how people come to "accept" death. Unfortunately, she regretted proposing each grief stage in a linear fashion. In other words, denial does not necessarily have to be the first grief symptom, and likewise, acceptance may not even be the last (as some people might never quite "accept" death as a reality). For absurdist philosophers like Albert Camus, questions of death can quickly become futile when one starts to question the actual amount of choices a person can make on a day-to-day basis.
Thursday, December 15, 2016
On the Irish Diaspora: Pictured above are statues of Irish emigrants along the River Liffey in Dublin. These statues depict not only emaciated adults, but also malnourished babies and pets. Collectively, they represent a vivid reminder of the trials and tribulations which many Irish folks underwent in the mid-to-late 1800s. For the most part, Ireland's population peaked at 8.5 million around the 1840s. But due to the Great Famine (1845-52), when potato blight decimated the nation's primary food supply, Ireland's population declined by as much as 25 percent. The two most popular international destinations for Irish emigrants at the time were Britain (Liverpool) and the U.S. (Boston, New York, & Philadelphia). By 1890, it is believed that as many as 40 percent of Irish-born people were living abroad. Cities like Boston and New York were quickly overwhelmed, as shortages in housing, employment, churches, and even schools all became major afflictions for these people. And yet today, nearly 40 million Americans claim Irish as their main ethnicity.
Thursday, December 1, 2016
On the Great Depression, 1929-39: Contrary to popular belief, the Great Depression was not simply a decade-long downturn of the American economy. In fact, the Depression occurred in other countries around the world as well. Additionally, there were even periods of prosperity during parts of the 1930s. Yet it was events at the beginning (Black Thursday in 1929) and at the end (1937-38 Recession) of the decade that caused the most economic hardship. Perhaps what best captured that hardship were the unemployment statistics. At times during the 1930s, nearly 25% of the American workforce had no official (wage) income. And two basic (complementary) reasons for this high unemployment rate have often been cited by historians and economists: overproduction and underconsumption. With overproduction, economists pointed to the massive output of industrial goods (in the 1920s) by car companies like Ford and steel companies such as U.S. Steel. Workplace advancements like the assembly line and scientific management had made the 1920s into a mass-production decade. But when demand collapsed in the early 1930s, many companies took awhile to scale back their outputs. Similarly, many consumers could no longer afford to purchase these goods. Yet if you could pinpoint two goods that Americans refused to give up during the Depression, it was their cars and radios. Houses became afterthoughts.