Tag Archives: Civil rights movement

The Significance of “Black Friday”

One of the coolest gifts of being in school is that I get to learn about our world, what we have done, what we are doing, and what we have the capacity to do as human beings. I think one of the freshest aspects of studying history is that I have the opportunity to learn facts and concepts that have shaped our civilization. And then as a cap to all of that, I have been granted the privilege to evaluate that information and those assertions with my studies of philosophy, whereby I am learning how to use and design moral frameworks from which I can evaluate the implications of what has been done and what “should” be done in the future in terms of what is justified and what is obligated of human beings; and I can base my interpretations in historical fact.

Last night I came across term Black Friday in my history textbook; “A History of the Modern Middle East” (William L. Cleveland, 2013), and it was a tragic scene in Iranian history. And before I make it seem like this is to present a negative perspective of Iran, or any Middle Eastern country, what I am going to tell you about this event has occurred in some fashion in every culture, nation, state and society that I have studied so far. As it turns out “Black Friday” was a term used to describe the response of Muhammad Reza Shah’s regime to a large mass of unarmed students, workers and other civilians protesting the actions of the regime. On Friday, September 8, 1978 Reza Shah’s regime marched tanks, helicopter gunships, and army into the crowds and killed hundreds of unarmed civilians to quell the protesters and silence them.

After reading that, I questioned when the term “Black Friday” was coined and why because as I am sure most of you are aware of it is associated with the Friday that follows the American holiday Thanksgiving, that occurs on the fourth Thursday of November. (The point of this post is not to call into question the moral implications of that holiday, that will be for a later post.) The contemporary meaning of Black Friday, according to blackfriday.com, since 1924 and the Macy Thanksgiving Day Parade, has marked the beginning of the holiday shopping season wherein companies move from the “Red into the Black” a term used to signify an end to making a loss and earning a profit.

I fact-checked those claims with snopes.com and found that the term was coined in 1951, in reference to employees calling in sick to work the Friday after Thanksgiving Day. The site further notes that in the early 1960s in Philadelphia the police termed the traffic problems related to the shopping in the metropolitan district as “Black Friday”. Snopes.com also confirmed the usage of the term that blackfriday.com mentioned in regard to it being the beginning of the holiday shopping season. Snopes.com however, discredited the claim that “Black Friday” was a term coined to descibe a special business day for the selling of slaves in the 19th Century.

However, in all of this research, I did not see any reference to what occurred in Iran in 1978 under the rule of Reza Shah of the Pahlavi Dynasty. My initial concern was that here in America we could have transmitted a term used to define an atrocity to mean something different, that is actually celebrated and rewarded annually. The transition in the meaning of terms is not something that is unheard of. Many of us in the United States are either familiar with or use the term “A Rule of Thumb,” to mean a general rule of operation, or in other words a maxim, but most of us do not know where it comes from. Nonetheless, the “Rule of Thumb” refers to the legal rule that if a stick was not wider than the diameter of the husband’s thumb, that he was legally justified in beating his wife with it. This was the grounds for my concern and what motivated my research into the etymology of the term. And I have been able to clear up, that the usage of the term to describe the initiation of the holiday shopping season predates the atrocity in Tehran, Iran by more than ten years.

Before leaving you all, I would like to briefly comment on the significance of the 1978 event, wherein the regime utilized the military to suppress the voices of the people who were expressing discontent. As I mentioned earlier, this is not something that is contained only to Iran, or the Middle East. We have to only peer into U.S. history and we will be acquainted with the suppression of African Americans during the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, who were voicing dissent and the police riot guards were called in to suppress them. Or more recently, when the protesters participating in the Occupy movement were suppressed to start to form an idea that suppression of dissent is not something that only happens outside of the United States, or is contained to the distant past.

As citizens of this world, no matter what country we live in, whether it is a democratic state or it is hierarchical, or its state government is based on the observance of religion, or a monarch; the consistent pattern is that when the voice of dissent is suppressed it lead to outcomes in that nation or state that are undesirable to population as a whole. Sometime suppression is more implicit than armed forces marching into the metropolitan area of a city and murdering hundreds of civilians. One type of power concerns the control of the agenda. This is important because even in a democratic society wherein the people are “allowed” to have a voice, if the agenda of what they can voice an opinion about is constrained, then those in power with the motivation to protect that power can situation that agenda to ensure that the issues that most threaten their position are never brought up to vote upon.

The United States is largely a consumer society that bases much of identity in Spending Power or the prestige that comes from possessing such power. Furthermore, in a society wherein Conspicuous Consumption, which signifies that status symbols (clothes, cars, watches, etc..) are used to delineate social class and thus power, the citizens of such a society have a vulnerability that can be exploited by those in power. To connect this to the previous ideas of the suppression of dissenting voices and controlling the agenda, when the elites can focus the populace’s attention on consumerism, attaching their self-worth to how much they can buy (Social Trappings), they can effectively control the agenda. If this line of reasoning is accurate, then the citizens of the United States are systematically having their dissenting voices suppressed by consumerism.

So, while it may not the case that the term “Black Friday” was explicitly designed and coined to represent the oppression of people and the suppression of dissenting voices, it is nonetheless clear that an argument can be made to support the claim our voice of dissent can be suppressed by such means.

And to think, that all of this thought came from one paragraph in my history textbook… Yeah, I love school. I decided to go to school to get an education and what has occurred is that it has changed the way I think about the world. I am now being armed with the skills and the knowledge to evaluate the world we live in. And this is precisely the reason that I decided to go to school.

http://blackfriday.com/pages/black-friday-history

http://www.snopes.com/holidays/thanksgiving/blackfriday.asp

“A History The Modern Middle East” by William L. Cleveland; 2013

Turn the Day Into the Night: The Story Behind the Song

To construct the lyrics for the Hip Hop song, “Turn the Day Into the Night,” I combined stories from my life and the lives of four friends I grew up with. This song is a portrayal of the life we, and many others faced and continue to face today while growing up indigent in gentrifying cities. For many of us then, as it is for many of us today, the best outcome that most of us had and have to look forward to was and is prison and death. This is a phenomenon that needs to come to light in the public’s eye and be faced head on.

(Lyrics for the song are at the end of this post)

Sociologists and social scientists have identified and established with empirical evidence that our society in the United States is stratified. This stratification is socioeconomic in nature, which means that it is not purely social in nature. In accordance with Social Conflict Theory, pioneered by people such as Karl Marx and W.E.B. Du Bois, this stratification manifests a conflict between the classes as they compete for resources. The media would have us believe what Chimamanda Adichie classified as a “single story,” in her appearance on Ted Talk in July of  2009; whereby the public is presented as Adichie  says; “[s]how a people as one thing, as only one thing over, and over again, and that is what they become” (Adichie 09:29). She later later notes; “[t]he single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but they are incomplete,” that there is in fact much more than what is presented by the media (Adichie 13:15).  The single story that has been represented of young Black men in America is that we are to be feared, that we are drug dealers, and we are to blame for our own situations. Well, from the social conflict perspective this is what is called “Blaming the Victim” and has provided the justification for denying responsibility for the problems of stratification; and in other words it is “Cognitive Dissonance,” and has been the basis for a blatant reprisal against an entire class of people.

The “White Flight” that began in American cities in the 1950’s and 60’s, when the migration of White Americans left urban areas decadent as the suburbs began to flourish. This occurred over the same time period as the great migration of Black Americans from the south and rural areas into northern cities. Resources and jobs disappeared, and the civil Rights Movement was just beginning to pick up in full swing so, at the time Black Americans were still being highly and openly discriminated against; in the social, political, educational, and economic spheres of American society. This was one of the causes of the stratification that we see today. Then in the late 80’s and early 90’s another  migration began to occur as wealthy Americans, mostly White, began to return to the cities. As this happened, the United States began to experience Gentrification as property was purchased, and driving up the property values less-wealthy Americans, usually minorities, could not afford to stay in the areas where this took place any more.

In both situations the phenomenon  of a battle for resources emerged as is suggested by classic social conflict theory. In a capitalist system where people are compelled to compete and oppress one another, this is not surprising.  According to Social-Psychological Theory, it is precisely this competition, which both creates and sustains the stereotypes that compound the issue of Blaming the Victim. And when the available resources in an area are based on the taxes collected in that area, it effect schools and school programs, after school programs, employment services, social health resources, etc.  Furthermore, all these resources suffer when the people who live in these communities are isolated economically as a result of capitalist competition.

Sociology: Understanding and Changing the Social World, v. 1.0.2,  Chapter 9.2 Explaining Deviance by Steven E. Barkan

Sociologists and social scientists have identified the the capitalist competition, the stereotypes with their subsequent effects that result from this competition, and the lack of resources facing minority communities as the reality of this stratification in the United States. They also suggest that the lack of resources, training and job opportunities in these communities is what leads the inhabitants of these communities to turn to what has been classified as crime—in America—as a means to survive. The crimes in question are primarily drug related in nature; drug dealing and drug using, but also robbery and assault. Drug usage has been identified to be a coping mechanism and drug dealing is dubiously, a lucrative enterprise, but not for the average person on the street dime bagging it to get by. Because of the legislation regarding drugs and society’s perception of this being the evil (Blaming the Victim), it is the symptom and not the cause which has been addressed, and is why there is so much more police in these communities. This image, the image of a young Black thug street dealing and either being harassed or arrested, has been the most prevalent image of Black people in the media, which unfortunately also includes Hip Hop—the so called Black medium—since the mid-1980’s, and has only served to indoctrinate our youth into the path of this single story and perpetuate the problem. The further ramifications are what have been termed as Racial Profiling, wherein specific groups are targeted by the police as being suspicious and often times have their constitutional rights infringed in the process of conferring guilt upon them. Thus, all of the circumstance combined has led these communities to experience a phenomenon that has been titled the “Pipeline to Prison,” which describes the tendency for youth to be funneled through school system into prisons.

Penitentiaries (prisons) are supposed to serve three primary functions; (1) the isolation of those society classifies as criminals from society, (2) the punishment of those who violate the laws, (3) a means by which the “guilty” are to repay their debt to society. However, according to the “Custodial and Non-Custodial Measures: Alternatives to Incarceration” report published in 2006, by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, “prisons not only rarely rehabilitate, but they also tend to further criminalise individuals, leading to re-offending and a cycle of release and imprisonment” (pg. 1). This is the result of a two parts of the social-psychological theory of socialization whereby, the individual is removed from the social pressures, which would naturally act to rectify such behavior and simultaneously insert that individual into an environment, which encourages further criminal behavior.

Compounding these circumstances is the privatization of the Unites States’ penitentiary system. This is a vital concern because human beings, and in this case criminals are being turned into commodities. Millions of dollars have been spent by corporations on lobbying to ensure that the laws are legislated in such a manner that people are both going to and staying in prison; to earn profit, not for rehabilitation and reparation. This situation only serves to further support the assertion that the system of capitalism is contributing to both the stratification and the oppression of an entire class of people.

This problem is not isolated to any one particular institution in the United States, the problem is systemic and it has been interwoven intricately into how we as Americans think about our society and the people in it. Because of how deeply it is embedded within us as a people this will not be an easy or simple undertaking, but it is vitally necessary that it is addressed. The first step in rectifying this problem is acknowledging that it exists. The second step is getting informed on just what circumstances comprise the problem. Then we can have an open discussion on how to pursue a remedy to the situation and hopefully stand as a people in solidarity making the necessary changes to our society. 

 ((new information: Judged sentenced for taking bribes to send black youth to prison))

http://www.africanglobe.net/headlines/judge-sentenced-28-years-selling-black-teens-prisons/

Following are the lyrics to the song:

Verse 1

Turn the day into the night,

cuz I really can’t deal with all the light /

The soul contrite, it will ignite,will not abide

by the code of the law in a lawless sight /

When its better to rob and not to hide,

cuz a nigga wont eat when the field divide /

When they weigh the cost and see my life,

an expendable asset, feel the rise /

Inside my heart as my mamma dies,

my father cries, its no surprise /

Starved to death and they called them lives /

Eagle eye keep a watchful spy,

suppress the rise of the poor with pride /

Defending my, my right to find,

my bit of happiness inside the lines /

The sides are drawn, the fields are long, the man is strong, but the powers to be are deftly wrong, till kingdom come, and the war is won, they’ll never see what has begun, inside the minds of mortal men, still holding on /

To a world so torn, by the wars to protect what had never been owned /

Land and the water,

air and the daughter,

son to the slaughter,

thirty piece martyr,

goona get harder to earn a dollar,

so you gotta be smart… /

Free to the be thief, whens he goona reap heat, repeat history, never could of learned to read, knew he couldn’t see thee, gotta pay a fee just to be on the streets, what he learned from the enemy, guise’d as a friend to me, fronted some amphetamines, ducking from the police, genes not holy, eyes full of greed and forgotten homies, testimonies, all they wanna see are commodities, human body monopolies, prisonous atrocities, these slave policies, are of Mephistopheles…

Chorus

Don’t wanna see us BE
Don’t wanna see us FREE
Don’t want us in the STREETS
So, CAGES are soon to BE (x3)

Don’t wanna see us BE
Don’t wanna see us FREE
NO, NO, NO….
Don’t wanna see us FREE

Verse 2

Don’t wanna see this world,

don’t wanna know whats still in store /

Let the night fully overcome,

wanna open my eyes and not be poor /

Wanna medical plan I can afford

and not to be known by my credit score /

So many doors been shut in my face,

I lost the trace, I caught a case, I’m facing time,

gotta walk the line, and keep a watchful eye,

cuz rivals ride, with shanks made out of whatever they find,

damn its hard out on the grind /

I know it seems like a fallacy,

but the tragedy is an atrocity /

Couldn’t my actions possibly,

have motives weighed collectively /

Why can’t they see my family tree,

and all the mouths that I have to feed /

I know the law like a nursery,

but now they’ve caught me dispersing these /

Tripped up rock, put a knot in my sock,

to hid from the cop while I’m on the block /

Fiends double pecking think they missed a spot,

me years from now, but no power to stop /

But I thought I had the game on lock, yet it slipped from me, like a memory, and I lost the key that kept me free, school never had a place for me, BLASPHEMY, but literacy isn’t as common as they think it be /

& The fear of such, kept me a slave unto the streets, but perception painted me, as the enemy, of this society, its propriety is a mockery, hypocracy, cuz white collar crime infects the whole economy, and aristocracy, but all they get is a slap on the wrist, cuz it kept the rich, and I get twenty five to life for payin rent, ain’t this a !!!BITCH!!! /

Might as well just dig a dicth, throw me in and steal my breath, call me NIGGER “IGNORANT”, I see how they be figurin, like prison is a Heven Sent, as to say we’re never ment, to raise the Hell up out of it, but WE RISE LIKE PHEONIX, !!!SUCK THAT!!!…

Chorus

Don’t wanna see us BE
Don’t wanna see us FREE
Don’t want us in the STREETS
So, CAGES are soon to BE (X3)

Don’t wanna see us BE
Don’t wanna see us FREE
NO, NO, NO….
Don’t wanna see us FREE

CREDITS

 MusicaDiction,

Produced by Zubin Hensler

Written by Renaissance the Poet