Friday, May 8, 2015

Mommy, Where Do Social Changes Come From?

In our study of the Civil War, the last lesson was about examining where freedom for the slaves came from. The essential questions were " Who 'gave' freedom to enslaved Americans? Did freedom come from above or below? To what extent were Abraham Lincoln's actions influenced by the actions of enslaved Americans?" First our class discussed the difference between freedom from above vs freedom from below using these two pictures. 

This first one shows an all-powerful Abraham Lincoln bestowing liberation upon the eternally grateful slave. It represents freedom from above since the man at the top of the social power pyramid, the president, grants the bottom of the totem pole slaves, freedom. It suggests that the slaves were helplessly awaiting rescue from the kind and powerful leaders, that the slaves did not have any hand in their emancipation but rather were saved by the nation's ruler.
We, as a class, felt that this was not an accurate depiction of how both parties felt/acted at the time.

The second image symbolizes the idea of freedom from below. In it the slave stands tall and triumphant, as if reaching the metaphorical summit of his climb up the social pyramid. He has worked for his liberation himself and is proud of what he achieved. This work implies that it was the slaves themselves who earned their freedom, that their actions eventually granted them the emancipation they worked so hard for.

Our job now was to analyze evidence of Lincoln's opinions and goals over time to determine where freedom for the slaves came from.

In 1862, Lincoln stated in a letter to Horace Greeley, " What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union…I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men everywhere could be free." He says his goal of the war is to save the Union and it's not about slavery, if freeing slaves helps with that goal he'd do it, and same with maintaining slavery, either way his goal is the union and any abolition or lack thereof depends on its aid to the union. The next document was the Emancipation Proclamation of January, 1863, in which Lincoln proclaims the freedom of all slaves, in rebelling states.
"all persons held as slaves within any state or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free"
This seems like some pretty straightforward freedom from above, except that the slave states that are part of the Union are still allowed to own slaves. At least the huge slave population down South is liberated? Not quite. Since Lincoln abolished slavery in only rebelling states, aka the states who refuse to listen to Lincoln, none of the slave owners actually released their slaves. In fact, the very fact that he had the audacity to try to take away their property, while he knows they don't submit to his authority, only served to anger the Confederate states further.

During the time of Lincoln's statements, the slaves were working to focus the war back on their situation. A letter from a general in 1862 tells how the runaway slaves would gather where the union troops were and force the government to pay attention to them. In videos we watched the slaves knew that by putting down their work and following the Union troops the commanding officers would write back to their superiors asking what to do.
"I hope to report to you a definite policy in reference to this matter, and in the mean time shall be glad to receive any instructions upon the subject which you may be disposed to give—" 
They didn't have enough food to feed them or room to house both them and the soldiers but they wouldn't leave so what should they do?

 In this engraving, hordes of slaves show up at a Union camp, leaving the base soldiers very confused.

Slavery was officially abolished 8 months after the war as a part of the 13th amendment.
"Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction." I believe that the freedom was granted from above, as the government legally abolished it without the slaves physically forcing their hand, but they had a strong influence in that decision and therefore deserve the credit for their actions.

We can use the paths leading to change in history as we continue to fix our country even now. In today's society two issues are becoming more prominent in their need to be addressed. Police brutality, especially dealing with race is a big one, and gender identity is finally becoming more public. In the case of police brutality, recent news and videos of cops beating, and sadly more often killing, unharmed or non dangerous individuals, have been stirring up emotions around the nation.

Ferguson Protests

Since the shooting of Michael Brown in August of 2014, the focus on police shootings has sharpened exponentially. The peaceful protests of Ferguson, MI, that ended in tear gas and rubber bullets originally brought huge amounts of attention to the frequency of these events and sparked protests across the country.  These incidents have only continued since, and if I had actually done this post on time I wouldn't have included this man, shot and killed only yesterday by the LAPD.

Baltimore Protests

Ferguson and Baltimore being the biggest, both peaceful and non peaceful protests have begun to call for investigation from civil rights and humane organizations into the actions of the police departments in many cities. The citizens of problematic cities and supporters have drawn the attention of President Obama and the rest of the united states government. Hopefully the brutality and discrimination will end through the combined efforts of the people and government. But so far there has been mainly efforts for change from below as passionate Americans have been spreading the word and protesting the issue. As things have become more violent and not calmed down I think change from above is also needed here to deal with the legal and political aspects that civilians cannot easily challenge.

Black Lives Matter

With gender identity, I believe the most change will come from below. The main issue is that people do not know and don't understand non binary and queer genders. The lack of information causes alienation and hate to spread. The statistics for suicide in trans* teens especially is sickening.

Until recently non cisgendered people have really not been talked about. People are so used to the binary social conventions of gender that they reject genderqueer expression quickly and don't try to understand. Thanks to social media and global communication, those who do not feel they fit into what they've been taught as boy vs girl, are more able to find others who feel the same way and soon will be able to show the rest of society and teach from personal experience.

Gender Is Poster

As with police brutality, increasing attention has been called to the deaths of these minority people through media and the internet. Transgender teen suicides have been too frequent and the only way to lower the statistics is through creating a less ignorant and more accepting society. Yet again if this was posted on time this link would not be here but sadly just this week another trans teen committed from bullying and unacceptance.

Leelah Alcorn's Suicide Post That Drew Attention To The Large Amount Of Trans* Deaths

Very recently celebrity Bruce Jenner has come out as a transgender woman, he says he prefers male pronouns though so I will continue to use he/him unless he later says otherwise. The publicity of his gender struggle is a huge step for trans* people everywhere as there is little to no representation in the media for them. Bruce Jenner is now one of two celebrity trans women, along with Orange Is The New Black star, Laverne Cox.  Informing about and representing queer people through all kinds of media and personal discussions is the only way to fix transphobic hate. Those from below need to inform and those above in positions of power need to represent.

Interview With Laverne Cox
Any additional information about anything this is one of my favorite websites ever

Here's the guy behind my fav website giving a TEDxTalk about gender 

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