The 114th Congress and legislation on slavery, race, and African American history

Posted January 8th, 2015 by
Category: Modern issues, Public History, Repair and reparations Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Now that the 114th Congress has convened the first session of its two-year term, it’s time to take stock of the status of legislation related to slavery, race, and African American history. What happened to legislation which was pending before the 113th Congress, and what new legislation has already been proposed in the new session?

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Modern slavery and the challenge of seeing our society for what it is

Posted November 7th, 2013 by
Category: Modern issues Tags: , ,

Global Slavery IndexWhen I speak with audiences about my family’s prominent role in the transatlantic slave trade, I often suggest that while none of us can change what others did in the past, one response to this history is to consider seriously what future generations may think of us. In particular, I ask people to imagine what what institutions or social realities we take for granted today that our descendants may find it hard to believe we were aware of , and yet chose not to oppose or speak out against.

In a very similar vein, Nicholas Kristof offers this thought to readers of his New York Times column this morning, contrasting the evils depicted in Twelve Years a Slave to modern-day slavery:

I fear that a century from now, someone may put together a movie about slavery in 2013, leading our descendants to shake their heads and ask of us: What were they thinking?

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“Racism exists, and it exists in porn”

Posted April 1st, 2013 by
Category: Modern issues Tags: ,

Image Source/GettyPornography  isn’t the typical context within which we examine the contemporary legacy of race in the United States, but I think it can be—if you’ll pardon the pun—quite revealing.

The Daily Beast has posted an article which asserts that race is one of the final frontiers in the pornography industry, under the title “Interracial Sex Still Taboo for Many Porn Stars.”

The premise of the article is captured by this comment from “award-winning porn star Kristina Rose”: “Racism exists, and it exists in porn.”

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The argument against fairness

Posted January 14th, 2013 by
Category: Modern issues Tags: , , ,

Stephen T. Asma, Against Fairness (2012)Philosopher Stephen T. Asma is causing quite a stir these days with his new book, Against Fairness.

The crux of Asma’s argument is that favoritism, and not fairness or egalitarianism, ought to guide our morality and our civic life. His philosophy welcomes such modern, democratic values as compassion and the fight against prejudice, while urging us to reject liberalism’s belief in meritocracy and the equal worth of all persons. Instead, Asma would have us embrace our instinct to prefer, and to preferentially support, the members of our “tribes”—those we feel close to by reason of blood, social relationships, or such markers as religion, social class, or cultural affinity.

This philosophical approach represents a major challenge to those who believe that our society can, and should, work to overcome bias of all kinds, expanding the circles1 of those we consider “us” until we become, as Asma puts it, “one giant tribe.”

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  1. See Peter Singer, The Expanding Circle: Ethics, Evolution, and Moral Progress (1981). []

Race-based education plan in Florida

Posted October 15th, 2012 by
Category: Modern issues Tags: , ,

The Florida Board of Education has approved a plan that will set different standards for progress in reading and math for students based on race and ethnicity.

The board’s strategic plan calls for 74% of black students to be reading at or above grade level by 2018, while seeking to achieve that level for 90% of Asian students, 88% of white students, and 81% of Hispanic students. There are similar targets in mathematics.

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Reflections on Trapped Miners in Chile

Posted September 1st, 2010 by
Category: Modern issues Tags: , , , ,

Harold Fields is a regular guest contributor who appears in the film Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North. Harold is active in restorative justice and racial reconciliation projects in Denver and around the nation, and his work with the Tracing Center includes serving on its board of directors. The opinions expressed are his own.

I have watched and listened to stories about the 33 trapped miners in Chile with great interest and empathy.  It is a blessed miracle that these men had survived for 17 days after the August 5th mine collapse before rescuers learned they were still alive.  It seems that the whole world was stunned by the initial estimate that it would be Christmas before the men could be freed safely.  Just today I am hearing that this goal might be accomplished by October, due to international cooperation from Germany who is sending a more powerful engine.

What strikes me are the parallels and differences from accounts of the conditions of captured Africans in Ghana during the Triangle Trade.  In the documentary Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North and in Tom DeWolf’s book Inheriting the Trade, we learn of the conditions in the Cape Coast Castle dungeons where people may have been kept for months until there were enough to fill waiting ships.

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Florida Modern-Day Slavery Museum

Posted August 9th, 2010 by
Category: Modern issues Tags: ,

James DeWolf Perry is a regular contributor. He appears in the film Traces of the Trade and is the Tracing Center’s director of research. This entry is cross-posted from James’ own blog, The Living Consequences, and the opinions expressed are his own.

The Florida Modern-Day Slavery Museum, a traveling exhibit consisting of a replica of the trucks involved in one of the most shocking cases of modern-day slavery in the U.S., is currently touring the nation.

The museum has toured Florida extensively, as well as appearing on the National Mall and at the State Department in Washington, D.C. It is now on a lightning tour of other East Coast locations: today, the museum is at City Hall in Boston; tomorrow, it will be in western Massachusetts, and by the end of the week it will be in Baltimore before ending the tour seven days from now with a stop in Charlotte, N.C.

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