Sunday, May 24, 2015

First Amendment Wins Second Time Around

Three years ago, in 2012, a video was posted on YouTube. Unlike the other hundreds of videos posted on YouTube daily, this one brought up extreme amounts of controversy. It was entitled, "Innocence of Muslims" and negatively portrayed the Islamic faith by portraying the Prophet Muhammad as a "bloodthirsty thug".

After this video was posted, a huge uproar was created around the world. Hundreds of people started protesting. The protests began in Cairo and eventually spread to Iran, Pakistan and Malaysia as well as many other countries. The protests caused many people to be injured and even over fifty people to die and the YouTube video was forced to be taken down.

YouTube did not see the point of removing this video, for they saw the video as a video against Islam and not Islam people. Therefore, this video is not a hate-crime. The First Amendment states that, "Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances." According to YouTube, the people who posted the video had the right to say everything they said because of their freedom of speech.

However, on May 18, a federal appeals court revisited the case and ruled that YouTube should not have had to remove the video off the site, for it was a breach to the freedom of speech by taking it down. While I understand everyone is entitled to have their own opinions, I believe the court got the case right the first time. In class, we learned about how there are certain instances that the First Amendment does not cover, such as yelling "Fire!" when there is not one. These instances are often illegal because they could cause danger to people's lives. This video did exactly that with the protests, for over fifty people died as a result of this video. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and should be able to express their opinion, but when it turns to danger, it may be time to put limitations on it and take down the video.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Blackish vs. The Bachelorette

Tonight, I was watching the premiere of the Bachelorette and watching the commercials when I saw one that stood out from the others. After just meeting the newest contestants on the season of the Bachelorette, who were almost entirely white, there was a commercial for a show called Blackish.

The Blackish commercial completely contrasted the Bachelorette in terms of race and appearance. While I have never seen the show Blackish, nor do I know what it is about, I could infer the show existed for a reason and the commercial existed during the Bachelorette for a reason - to prove that ABC could be seen as "diverse". Additionally, the commercial was the first commercial to appear during the commercial break. In our class, we discuss the importance of first position and just as in writing, this commercial was placed first to show its importance and show a clear contrast from extreme whiteness of the Bachelorette.

(click on this link for an enlarged image!)

By looking at the cast photo for the Bachelorette above, it looks completely white. If you did not take a moment to analyze the cast photo, you would not even notice the four African American men in the picture. These men have skin so light that they could even pass for white in this picture; however, despite how light their skin is, ABC still wants their viewers to make sure they notice the "tokens". Two of the African American men are placed in the front row (one fourth from the left and one third from the right) and the other two are placed in the center of the back row. The two in the front row are visible because no one is in front of them and the two in the back row catch your eye because they are standing together in the center, which is where your eye naturally goes. The other 21 men are all white, which once again illustrates the idea that the Bachelor franchise is a majority white franchise with little diversity. Usually, the diversity is shown off in a way like in this picture, to "prove" the tokens exist in a pool of Caucasians.

However, after being subjected to such a white show, a commercial for Blackish comes on. Unlike the Bachelorette, every single person in the commercial was African American. While the Bachelorette has a few tokens to be "diverse", many people still see the show as very homogeneous. The Bachelorette can throw in tokens into their cast on the first night, but more often than not, these tokens get sent home early on in the competition leaving behind an all-white cast. To off-set this, ABC proudly advertises the show Blackish, a show full of token minorities, to prove to Americans that their network is diverse. Having this commercial appear just seconds after watching the interactions of many white contestants makes it stick out - which is exactly what ABC wants. They want you to remember that they have this minority show. From doing our numerous parallels and contrasts for The Great Gatsby, we learn that authors put in parallels and contrasts for a reason: for the audience to notice a specific part and see it as important. ABC is using this exact same tactic for these contrasting shows. The contrast as a whole displays how much attention Americans place on race in society today, not only in the real world but on screen as well.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Diploma Discrepancies?

In the halls of New Trier in May, you can hear all the seniors anxiously discussing their last weeks of school and upcoming graduation. Graduation is almost a guarantee at New Trier... I have never heard of a student not receiving a diploma at New Trier and if someone did not, they would most likely be looked down upon by their upper class peers.
All this talk of graduation going on in our school right now got me thinking as to what graduation looks like for members of the lower class. Before doing some research, I thought that lower class students would be no where near the graduation rate of members of the middle and upper class; however, I was pleasantly surprised that this is not the case in some states.

In Kentucky and Texas, these lower class students have relatively the same high school graduation rate as privileged students. Kentucky has almost the same graduation rate between classes, for there is only a discrepancy of 1.4 percent between lower class and wealthy students. In Texas, the rate differentiates by 5.5 percent, which is still a relatively equal amount. 

While these states' statistics are promising, our nation still has a little ways to go before the high school graduation rates are equal for all classes. Minnesota, a state I used to live in, has a ridiculously high discrepancy between upper and lower class with a difference of 24.1 percent. In our nation, the average graduation rate for upper/middle class is about 88 percent, but for the lower class, it is around 73 percent. These two rates have a difference of 15 percent, which still shows a large discrepancy between the education different classes receive.

Race can be directly linked to this discrepancy, for the graduation rate for African American students in 2013 was 71 percent compared to 87 percent for whites. These two statistics are almost identical to the class statistics. Because of this, one can make the assumption that African Americans correspond to the lower class and whites correspond to the middle and upper class. The almost identical nature of these statistics shows that race often goes hand in hand with the class system in America today.

The United States is on track to having equal high school graduation rates between different classes, and the day this happens cannot come soon enough. Alma Powell, the chairwoman of America's Promise Alliance, says, "In America, education has always been seen as the pathway out of poverty... We have to do everything possible - inside and outside of our schools - to make the promise of America real for every child." Lower class citizens are currently lagging behind in terms of graduating high school, and this education is necessary for them to become middle class and generate more wealth. In my opinion, education is the key to lowering the amount of impoverished Americans, for educating them will give them opportunities in employment that will provide them with more money to live comfortably. Because of this, raising the graduation rates to make them equal is crucial and beneficial to many Americans.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Only the Wealthy Say "I Do"

Today in America, the percentage of people who get married is on the decline. Wendy Wang, a researcher of American families, says that almost half of the people between the ages 24 and 35 have never been married. The percentage of children who live in single-parent homes has "nearly doubled since 1960" according to data from the 2010 Census.
This graph shows that since 1960, the percentage of Americans over 18 who are married has decreased by 20 percent, while the percentage who have never been married or who are divorced has increased significantly.

Many people have been trying to hypothesize why the marital rate is on the decline. One possible reason for this is the idea that only the wealthy get married, as we discussed in class.

According to Allison Linn, "people with a college degree have become more likely to get - and stay - married than their less educated counterparts, and those who stay married also tend to be much wealthier than unmarried adults." People who attend college are usually members of the upper class, for only two out of five Americans of working age have a college degree. This statistics shows most Americans do not have a college degree, and this is perhaps as a result of the high tuition costs. With limited financial aid available, most people who attend college are upper class, and according to Linn, these are the people who are most likely to get married.

Society has a definition of someone who is "marriage material". Susan Brown, a sociology professor at Bowling Green State University and co-director of the National Center for Family and Marriage Research, defines someone who is "marriage material" as someone who has "already met certain financial milestones, such as going to college or having a good, stable job." This definition, in many ways, is simply code for someone who is a member of the middle or upper class. Someone who has "met financial milestones" is someone who is well-off money wise and can live comfortably, both of which are characteristics of these two classes. Someone who is struggling with money and part of the lower class is simply not seen as "marriage material" according to society's definition.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Childhood Bias?

Awhile ago, I wrote a blog post about the lack of women in the fields of computer science and engineering and how often times, these two college majors are seen as being "gendered." This post focussed primarily on how people are trying to balance out the discrepancy - but how is this discrepancy created? I came across a recent article that provides a reasonable explanation of this unfortunate issue.

The author, Claire Cain Miller, explains how she believes the discrepancy begins during one's childhood. Childhood toys that teach children about engineering are often times geared toward boys. Young girls are generally drawn towards pretty pink toys, and if engineering toys are dark colors and appear "boyish", girls are unlikely to pick them up; therefore, boys get exposure to engineering-like activities at a young age while girls do not.

A picture of a toy with the purpose of teaching children engineering-like skills... but do the colors scare away girls?

Another reason that girls are lacking in these fields comes from elementary school teachers' bias towards boys in regards to math and science. A study was done with a group of Israeli students in which students were given a test that was graded by their own teacher and another adult who was unfamiliar with the students. The students' own teacher gave all the boys in the class higher grades on the math and science portion of the test, while the impartial adult graded the tests accurately and the girls outscored the boys. With other subjects, the impartial grader and the teacher graded the same.

What do you think? Does this gendered field stem from childhood experiences? Are teachers biased toward boys in regards to math and science?

Thursday, April 30, 2015

A Picture Says 1000 Words

Thus far, I have analyzed many statistics about the trends of school segregation and read many examples of schools that are still very segregated today; however, I have not yet analyzed photographs, which I think can sometimes say even more than a statistic, a story, or a report.

I came across the photo above during my research. It was taken in 1953, which was during the time of Jim Crow laws and prior to the Supreme Court case, Brown v. the Board of Education. Schools during this time were completely segregated, as demonstrated by this photo. All the students in the photo are African American. Some have lighter skin than others, but nevertheless, they are still enrolled in this school because they have traces of the African American race in them. Even the teacher in the room is African American, which shows a lack of diversity in the teaching staff as well. The teacher has a book in her hand, but none of the students except for one have supplies on their desks. Perhaps this is because of the lack of resources African American schools were provided with due to the Jim Crow laws. Isabelle Tashima, a classmate who researched the acheivement gap between African Americans and whites, said that at the time of Jim Crow laws, "Black children were required to attend schools in deteriorated buildings and use out of date books, taught by teachers who are paid significantly less than their white peers and had no educational opportunities." The teacher, who is not white, is most likely paid only a fraction of the salaray of a white teacher. Additionally, only one student in the class out of everyone has a book, so resouces are scarce. The photo is a clear representation of America during the time period in which it was taken - segregated and unequal.

However, this photo was taken 54 years later and looks almost identical to the first photo taken in 1953. If the 1953 photo so clearly representated that time period, does this photo represent 2007 and modern America?

Similar to the first photo, every single student in this classroom is African American. Unlike the first picture, these students all have books and supplies, which could possibily be as a result of the shift in emphasis from integrating schools to equal funding. However, if you look in the back of the classroom, all the computers look extremely out of date. In my school at the time this photo was taken, we had multiple computer labs full of the newest, Apple computers. Unlike this school, my school was majority white. We were given superior resources compared to this school, which is almost identical to the 1950s.

Unlike the previous two photos, this photo illustrates an all-white classroom. Another major difference is that this classroom is from a private school, while the other two pictures were from public schools. In order to get this photo, I simply searched "private school classroom" into Google Images. I did not need to write "white private school classroom", for every image that came up mirrored this image. All of the pictures were of white students who appeared to look extremely wealthy. From this, one could make the connection that private schools today are for the "white" and the "wealthy" and exhibit little to no diversity.

These students are wearing uniforms that are fairly formal and consist of multiple items - shirts, ties, sweaters, and pants. The all-black classroom's students wore uniforms too, but they were simply a red shirt. The white private school clearly places more emphasis on this and the uniforms represent the quality of education students receive. The students in this photo all look engaged, for many hands are raised. While we cannot see the teacher in this photo, one can infer the teacher is highly experienced for the students are very engaged in their learning and seem to prioritize their academics.

In what ways do you see segregation in your lives today? To what extent is it still apparent in our society?

Friday, April 24, 2015

An Invisible Fence

Two weeks ago, I wrote a post acknowledging the rise in school "segregation" in America today and last week, I wrote about different types of schools that are experiencing it. One of the primary reasons schools are still segregated in America today is because of the housing segregation in America.

The vast majority of high school students attend public high schools. In 2014, 14.7 million high school students attended a public school, while only five million students attended private schools. Public schools are determined by the location of one's home, so if there is housing segregation in America, then the schools will most likely be segregated as well. The number of public school students is so high, so many of them are exposed to segregation which makes it a huge American problem.

The primary reason to the residential segregation is the discrepancy in income between minorities and whites.

This picture illustrates a rise in the amount of income inequality from 1980-2010. While the percentage of lower income households has remained the same, the number of upper income families has increased by five percent within the past 30 years. The decrease in middle income families shows a decrease in diverse neighborhoods and schools, for these are usually inhabited by middle income families. The Gini index, which is a measure of inequality, has increased dramatically from 0.404 in 1980 to 0.469 in 2011.

The income inequality plays a dramatic role in the rise of housing segregation in America today because people from upper income households generally can afford houses in wealthy neighborhoods, which are segregated and separated from the poorer neighborhoods that the lower income families reside in. 

In addition to income, many people live in neighborhoods where they feel "comfortable", which often times means with people of the same race. Kyle Crowder, a sociology professor at the University of Washington, said, "Blacks tend to originate in neighborhoods with very high concentrations of blacks and, when they move, they tend to move to other places that have very high concentrations of blacks. Their typical destination is not a multiethnic neighborhood. The same is even more true for whites."

People live in towns with people similar to them, which only promotes further segregation of not only neighborhoods, but public schools as well. African Americans possibly only feel comfortable in minority neighborhoods because of America's negative portrayal of them in the past. The discrepancy of income and the desire to be with similar people create a large amount of residential segregation, which ultimately contributes to a large amount of public school segregation.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Two Cities, Two Situations

Like many other cities, a court forced the city of Louisville and Jefferson County (a county near Louisville) to integrate their schools in the 1970s. While many cities integrated upon the court’s orders, many of them slowly went back to having segregated schools because of a multitude of reasons. Despite what other cities did, Louisville and Jefferson County strived to maintain integrated schools.

In Jefferson County, more than half of the residents live below the poverty level; however, this does not stop students from obtaining a quality education. Both the city schools and schools in Jefferson County are in the same district and maintain well-integrated schools by busing students to different schools in the district. Neighborhoods in Louisville that are predominantly white have school demographics that are “49 percent white, 37 percent black, and 14 percent Latino and otherethnic and racial groups” because of busing. It is incredible that neighborhoods that are predominately white do not have predominantly white schools. This is extremely beneficial for students and one can argue that the tremendous amount of success Louisville has stems from the integrated schools and the valuable life lessons and corroboration skills they teach.  Students learn to interact with all races and classes. The principal at Hawthorne Elementary in Louisville said, “Our PTApresident will drive downtown into neighborhoods she probably would not havegone to, to pick up kids to bring to her house for sleepover.” People are willing to accept other people and bridge the gap between the rich and poor, black and white… what better proof is there than the sleepovers they have!

Unfortunately, not all school districts excel in having tremendous amounts of diversity like Louisville. Even in Winnetka, our schools are largely populated by whites and still very segregated. Everyone at New Trier is mainly white and wealthy, leaving little room for diversity.

Another city that is displaying large amounts of segregation is Detroit. Detroit and Louisville both had court orders in the 1970s that forced them to integrate schools by combining city schools with suburban schools. At the time, both areas were about 20 percent black and 80 percent white. While Louisville continued to keep the court order alive, Milliken v. Bradley wrongly released Detroit’s court order in 1974 and schools once again became segregated.

Myron Orfield, the director of the Insititute on Metropolitan Opportunity at the University of Minnesota, found that in 2000, the average black Detroit student went to schoolwith less than two percent white students, but in Louisville, the average blackstudent went to a school that was half white. These comparisons show just how much the schools differentiated after the court order in Detroit was released and demonstrates the amount of power the court has on school segregation. These statistics ultimately led to African American students in Detroit being poorly educated and created a less accepting and unified world compared to Louisville, which has done everything right.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

A Downward Slope

While scrolling through many sites looking for information for my junior theme, one quote spoken by a parent of an African American high school girl stuck out to me:

The language in this quote is extremely significant. Walter Fields, the parent who said this quote, says that "now we arrive" at a place where segregation exists in the education system in America today. Americans are taught numerous times in their history curriculums about how schools used to be segregated prior to Brown v. Board of Education, which determined it unconstitutional to have separate public schools for blacks and whites. However, if schools cannot be segregated by law in America today, then how come we are "arriving at the point" where they are? Field's language suggests that American schools became less segregated, but are now once again returning to their segregated state.

I found this statement in this quote to be alarmingly true. The graph below shows the percentage of black students in predominantly white school. In 1954, right before Brown v. the Board of Education, there were no black students in majority white schools; however, after this was ruled unconstitutional,  the percentage of African American students started to rise until it hit its peak of 43.5% in 1988. This statistic isn't even that impressive, for over half of black students still attended schools that had a minority majority.  

Unfortunately, this percentage was short-lived and in 2011, we were at one of our lowest percentages yet with having only 23.2% of all African American students attend schools with a white majority. Clearly, school segregation still exists today and this graph shows an alarming trend in the future. 

While this graph represents schools nationwide, schools in Illinois are known for their segregated schools. In Illinois, along with New York, Maryland and Michigan, more than half of African American students attend schools where 90% or more are minority. Illinois continues to have one of the most extreme school segregation in a nation that already faces disturbing amounts of segregation.

In what ways have you seen school segregation in Illinois? How does this de facto segregation affect the education each individual is receiving?

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Test No One Is Taking

These past two weeks, my two younger sisters (seventh grade and freshman) both skipped numerous days of school. They weren't sick, they didn't have doctors appointments, they didn't go on vacation... they simply did not go because both their schools were administrating the PARCC testing.

A photo of students taking the PARCC test, which is administrated online in 75% of the schools.

The PARCC testing, or the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, is the new test that replaces the ISAT and the Prairie State Achievement Examination. Before the PARCC testing, when the ISAT was still the standardize test of choice, everyone showed up for the test. Many students even loved ISAT week because the ISATs were not that difficult of a test and of course, no homework! But now, many people are opting out of taking this test. My mom said the superintendent at Winnetka schools even sent out an email explaining that if a student is too stressed out to take the exam, they could opt out of it. While schools can not reveal the amount of students who actually took this "mandatory" exam yet, many sources are saying the attendance is extremely lacking. Ellie, my seventh grade sister, said around half the students in her class are not taking it. An attendance record of fifty percent will not suffice for the success of this exam.

In other words, the lack of attendance will severely impact our state's education. The state could potentially lose funding, and we learned in class that state funding is crucial for schools (especially lower-income schools). Needless to say, New Trier and the Winnetka Public Schools will lose funding due to their failure to reach 95%.

I understand that standardized tests play a significant role in America's education, for they allow state's to measure the education students are receiving and show if a given school's methods of educating are sufficient. However, I think students are making a good choice in boycotting this exam. This test takes a total of thirteen hours to take and is shown to be far too difficult for the grade level the student is at. I was talking to some freshmen English teachers at the Northfield Campus, who took the test prior to the students, and they said some questions they even struggled with... and they majored in English in college! Additionally, this tests is mainly administrated online, which creates many technical difficulties and would be a challenge for students in low-income areas who do not have access to the superb technology we have at New Trier. Overall, the test is flawed and is not the best way to deal with education in America. 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Unequal Funding, Unequal Education

In class this week, we discussed a lot about how Illinois schools are funded and how affluent schools are unfairly spending more per student than the schools in impoverished areas, who if anything, need even more funding. According to Mr. Bolos' presentation, Chicago Public Schools spend approximately $13,791 per student per year, while in contrast, New Trier, a school in an affluent area, spends $21,372 per student. This weekend, I came across an article that explained this discrepancy is not only apparent in Illinois. In fact, the funding is even more unbalanced in other states.

Right now, 23 states spend more money on affluent schools than areas of high poverty. While this is still less than fifty percent, this number is expected to rise. U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan explained that the No Child Left Behind Act, which "expanded the federal role in public education through annual testing, annual academic progress, report cards, teacher qualifications, and funding changes," is actually giving more money to affluent districts.

This map explains the difference between the funding affluent schools receive in contrast with the funding high-poverty schools receive. States with a negative percentage (red, orange and yellow) provide more funding to affluent schools.

According to Mr. Bolos' percentages, New Trier spends $7,581 more on its students compared to CPS, a poorer district. This discrepancy is already far too large, but shockingly, it is not even the state with the largest funding discrepancy. Pennsylvania, a state I used to live in, has an appalling difference in the funding. The districts with a high poverty rate receive 33 percent less state and local funding than the affluent schools. Most schools get the majority of their funding from state and local, for only a small percentage comes from federal funding. Because these schools receive one-third less of what an affluent school receives in terms of state and local funding, the school is left with not enough money to provide a quality education to children who need it the most. There are far too many states on the map colored red, orange, and yellow, and it is time to erase the funding discrepancy and paint the United States map all one shade - a shade of equality.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

A Two-Women Job?

The Bachelor and The Bachelorette are easily two of the most popular reality shows in America today and while they are entertaining, they say a lot about America and what it values. We have already discussed in class how it has little diversity with the exception of a few TV "tokens" which consist of one or two non-white members in a cast of 30 contestants and the potential overweight contestant thrown in every once in awhile. However, diversity is not the only problem about this show - it also extremely objectifies women, especially with the new system of The Bachelorette that premieres in the spring.

Typically, The Bachelorette features one, single bachelorette who is seen as the "star" of the show. On the first night, she is greeted by 25-30 men vying for her heart. If she sees potential with a man, she will keep him on the show; however, if she does not see a future with him, she will eliminate him.

This season of The Bachelorette, that will all change. There will be two bachelorettes, Kaitlyn Bristowe and Britt Nilsson. The first night, they both will meet the men vying for their hearts and then men will choose, after seeing them, who they want to be the next bachelorette.

This new system is incredibly flawed in the way it portrays women, a theme already prominent in America today. A season of The Bachelor just wrapped up, in which there was only one bachelor. The bachelor, Chris Soules, was already guaranteed to be the bachelor; therefore, he did not have to "compete" with anyone to be it. Neither Britt or Kaitlyn are guaranteed to be the official bachelorette... the show is making these two women go against each other. 

Additionally, the bachelorette will be chosen on the first night, when the men have not yet gotten to know either Kaitlyn or Britt. Therefore, the next bachelorette will be chosen solely on their appearance, for they will know little about their personalities if they have not even known them for 24 hours. This objectifies women and presents them with an opportunity only if they are seen as "prettier" and "hotter" than the other.

To what extent does this new "Bachelorette" system represent America today, especially in regards to women?

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Minority Emojis

Like most other iPhone users, I use emojis every single day in my texts; however, it was not until today when I found out that Apple was including a new set of emojis depicting minorities that I realized how they merely represent whites.

Appalled at this realization, I scrolled through my emoji keyboard and found that there were only two emojis that represent minority groups and both of these emojis were highly stereotyped by wearing hats that mirror their race.

A picture of the current two emojis representing ethnic groups -- an Asian wearing a Gua Pi Mao hat which is typically identified with the Qing dynasty and a man wearing a turban.

There are 722 emojis on the standard emoji keyboard, yet the company who designs emojis, Unicode Consortium, only designated two of these 722 to represent non-whites. Often times, people try to find emojis that look "just like them" to put next to their contact name in someone else's phone... What emoji would a seventeen-year old girl like me put next to her contact name if she was African American if there are no African American emojis to resemble her?

Minority groups are constantly being misrepresented in our country and the emoji category is just one of the many areas they are lacking representation (another being the Oscars which I blogged about last week!).  For this reason, I was ecstatic to find out Apple's plan to release culturally diverse emojis with iOS 8.3. This update will have the current favorite people emojis each available in six different skin tones. On top of this, there will be same-sex relationship emojis depicting two moms or two dads holding hands and 32 new country flags.

These new emojis are getting lots of positive press; however, there is still one aspect of these emojis that is controversial. Many Asians, understandably, are feeling upset by the fact the emojis that are supposedly meant to represent their race are bright yellow. They are channeling their frustration by tweeting things like, "Asian skin tone in the new Apple emoji set is bright yellow. That seems more racist than racially diverse."

Taking the initiative to add these emojis with different skin tones is taking a major step forward, but now that these minority groups are being represented, Apple needs to focus on how they are choosing to represent them.

Monday, February 23, 2015

PAY Attention to Women

Yesterday, I wrote a blog post about the Oscars and how Hollywood is a predominately white industry; however, the discrepancy about race was not the only discrepancy apparent during this event. Patricia Arquette won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role in "Boyhood" used her acceptance speech to advocate for gender equality - specifically regarding equal pay.

A photo of Patricia Arquette gives her acceptance speech after being awarded the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress on February 23, 2015. 

Arquette passionately said, "It's our time to have wage equality once and for all, and equal rights for women in the United States of America." This line provoked a strong response from females in the audience, especially from Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lopez who applauded her plea.

This response was to be expected, for women are still receiving significant lower pay than men. On average, women make 78 cents for every dollar a man makes. African American women earn on average 64 cents for every dollar a white man earns. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act on June 10, 1963 and said that "much remains to be done to achieve full equality of economic opportunity - for the average woman worker earns only 60 percent of the average wage for men." Since 1963, America has only made slight changes to this unequal ratio. Fifty-two years later, women only make 18 more cents for every dollar a man makes, when the ratio should be equal. Clearly, this issue needs more awareness if it takes over 50 years just for women to earn 18 extra cents.

Patricia Arquette used her freedom of speech this Sunday night, and I think it was entirely appropriate. The Oscars were seen by 34.6 million people on Sunday. By advertising her views to millions of people, Arquette spread awareness of the issue regarding inequality in pay. After winning an Oscar, she had a choice of what she could say, and she chose to highlight a huge issue America is having today that needs to be solved.

 What do you think of Patricia Arquette's Oscar acceptance speech?

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Walking the White Carpet

Tonight the Oscars are on television... yet another award show that is simply overrepresented by whites. Just as Mr. O'Connor wrote about the lack of diversity in the nominees for the Golden Globes, the 2015 Oscar nominees are predominantly white and do not portray the high levels of diversity that make up the American population. This year's Oscars has the most white nominees overall since 1998 - we are taking a step backward instead of forward.

Perhaps this is a result of the lack of representation of African Americans in the academy. The members of the academy all vote and ultimately decide who wins each Oscar.  However, the demographics of the academy clearly demonstrate the same trend as the nominees. In 2012, 94 percent of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was white and 77 percent were male. African Americans only composed three percent of the academy, which could possibly explain the lack of African American Oscar nominees and winners.

Out of over 2,900 winners throughout Oscar history, only 32 were African American. That is only one percent. 14.1 percent of the United States population is African American, so around 14.1 percent theoretically should be going to African Americans to represent their role in our society.

The Oscars are televised to over 200 countries. What message is America putting out to other countries if we rarely award African Americans? Giving only one percent of Oscars to African Americans conveys the idea that our country values the work done by whites more, and we are broadcasting this idea to hundreds of other countries. Is this the reputation we really want to have?


Our class has discussed numerous times the unjustifiable violence police show toward African Americans like Eric Garner and Michael Brown. As a result of all these recent events, the hashtag, #BlackLivesMatter, has become extremely popular to spread awareness through the media. However, #BlackLivesMatter is not alone, #MuslimLivesMatter now joins it.

On Tuesday, February 11, three Muslim family members (Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha, and Razan Abu-Salha) were shot in their home near the University of North Carolina. All of them were students at nearby universities. Their neighbor, Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, was arrested and charged with the murder. The police speculate that the cause of the shooting was a dispute over parking, but the relatives of the three victims believe the shooting was simply a hate crime.

Hick's ex-wife, Karen, said at a press conference, "This incident had nothing to do with religion or victims' faith but instead had to do with the longstanding parking disputes that my husband had with the neighbors." 

However, many people seem to think otherwise. To show their disapproval toward the police's theory about the crime occurring solely because of a parking dispute, the hashtag "#MuslimLivesMatter" started to trend. The hashtag also played an important role in the shooting because many people were frustrated with the lack of media coverage about this event. The power of social media was put into play by having many people furiously share their opinions about the likely possibility of this crime happening due to religious intolerance. Similar to what happened earlier in Ferguson and #BlackLivesMatter, Americans are playing an important role in demonstrating their beliefs and morals through social media.

The few pieces of media coverage this event got all included the fact that the victims were Muslim. For example, the title of Huffington Post's article was "3 Members of Muslim Family Shot Dead in Chapel Hill" and Washington Post's article is entitled, "Three Muslims killed in Shooting near UNC."
If these three victims were all Christian, I do not think the headlines would be "Three Christians Killed," instead, they would most likely read, "Three Students Killed." The fact that the headlines all include information about their religion shows that this most likely is a hate crime, and #MuslimLivesMatter is extremely relevant.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Schools "Celebrate" Black History Month

Recently, I came across two very different ways to recognize February as "Black History Month". New Trier recognized the history of African Americans very differently than another high school I visited this month, Mundelein High School.

New Trier's "Black History Month" display -- photo taken by Claire Hartman.

New Trier displayed their "grand" tribute towards "Black History Month" at the Northfield Campus. The location itself places emphasis on the lack of recognition New Trier gives to African American history. The Northfield campus only holds a quarter of all New Trier students, so over 3,000 students do not even see New Trier's perhaps main attempt to recognize African Americans. While there are other displays at the main campus, the majority of them did not come out until the very end of the month when the recognition toward African American history was coming to an end (note: I had to revise this blog post after seeing them... I did not even see any at first!). Also, the posters at the main campus were hand-drawn with markers on white poster board, and therefore, did not look as "put together" as this display at the Northfield Campus.

New Trier's display is entitled, "Influential Stories about Black Athletes". New Trier focuses all of African American history on athletics in this display. African Americans being successful in athletics is a common stereotype, so by creating a display only recognizing them for athletics is more stereotypical than reflective and honorary. It's also interesting how the font size is so tiny next to each picture. No student is going to take the time to read that small of a font, if they can even make out the words. It is also notable that New Trier only recognizes African Americans to this extent during February, for it is a temporary display that will only remain intact during "Black History Month".

Mundelein's African American history display -- photo taken by Claire Hartman.

Unlike New Trier, every month is "Black History Month" at Mundelein High School with their nicely painted permanent mural. When I was at this school for a gymnastics meet, I took a moment to truly appreciate the amount of recognition they give to African Americans. Unlike New Trier, which is 83.6% white, less than half of Mundelein High School students are white (48.2%); therefore, the school is incredibly more diverse. Perhaps this explains why they put so much more effort into their display. Another important aspect of this mural is that it focuses on women. Women and African Americans are seen as inferior to white men. By focusing on two minorities, it shows how much they value and respect "Black History Month". New Trier only saw blacks as "athletes", but Mundelein shows blacks are not linked to any stereotype and instead portrayed them three-dimensionally. 

To what extent do these two displays explain how America views "Black History Month"? As a New Trier student, how do you view our school's attempt to appreciate African American history in comparison to Mundelein's?

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Fourteen Strikes... You're Out.

Being a regular customer at Urban Outfitters, I tend to think most of their clothes are stylish and trendy; however, this company is developing a reputation of going too far to come up with original clothes to the point where they are extremely controversial and offensive.

Numerous people were outraged today when word got out about Urban Outfitters' newest release, a grey-and-white stripped tapestry with a pink triangle on it. This item closely resembles what Nazi concentration camp prisoners were forced to wear if they were gay.

The Anti-Defamation League is an organization created "to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all". They were appalled by this product and urged Urban Outfitters to remove this product because it is "deeply offensive and should not be mainstreamed into popular culture" and is "eerily reminisent of the Holocaust". Urban Outfitters responded to this command by saying they will no longer continue to sell this product; however, word has still gotten out about it.

For those people who saw Ellie's blog post about Urban Outfitters selling a Kent State sweatshirt and an "Eat Less" shirt in September, this post may seem like déjà vu. Urban Outfitters has gone way too far in terms of coming up with clothes that no other store has. They have released fourteen controversial items like the ones both Ellie discussed in September and the most recent tapestry, including a shirt with the color of "Obama Black" and a shirt with a Jewish star on it which resembled the ones Jews had to wear during the Holocaust in Nazi Germany.

When I see this pattern of releasing controversial items happening again and again, it makes me question whether or not I should still shop at this store... Who wants to support a store who has released fourteen offensive items?

In class, we discussed how wearing an inappropriate shirt in public (such as the cuss-word shirt Rudy has) is generally protected under the First Amendment, but how does this tapestry controversary fare in regards to the First Amendment? How is this case different... or is it even different at all?

Sunday, February 1, 2015

The Most Important Super Bowl Commercial

It is no surprise that millions of Americans will turn on their televisions this evening to watch the Super Bowl, but what may come as a surprise is a commercial that is expected to air during the first quarter.

Unlike the majority of Super Bowl commercials that air with the intention of being funny, this one has a different effect. For the first time ever, there will be a Super Bowl commercial addressing domestic violence and sexual assault, an issue which strongly needs to be addressed.

This brilliant video illustrates a real situation in which a woman called 911 pretending to order a pizza, so someone in her house (inferred to be a man assaulting her) would not know she was actually calling 911. The eerie and shocking video is part of the "NO MORE" movement, which is a campaign created by the NFL to "to raise public awareness and engage bystanders." 

The fact that this commercial will air during the Super Bowl is extremely appropriate given the NFL's past with domestic violence. This year, Ray Rice from the Baltimore Ravens assaulted his wife, and the news of this situation became very well-known and tarnished NFL's reputation. 

In October, Isabelle wrote a very relevant blog post about domestic violence in the NFL and how the NFL was choosing to highlight "Breast Cancer Awareness Month" instead of "Domestic Violence Awareness Month." Isabelle proposed that this was NFL's way of distracting from the fact that players in the NFL have been arrested for domestic violence.

By airing this commercial and promoting the "NO MORE" movement, the NFL finally is addressing the issue of domestic violence and sexual assault that occurs not only in the NFL, but in America as a whole. I am very glad that the NFL finally decided to raise awareness toward this issue, and to do so during the most watched television event of the year is sure to make a strong statement.

Friday, January 16, 2015

A Rising Empire

Throughout class discussions and our TV Tokenism presentations, the show Empire has been brought up multiple times. Empire is a network drama on Fox with a cast only of African Americans that premiered a little over a week ago and has two episodes thus far. It comes on Wednesdays at 9/8 C, which is considered the most coveted hour for a TV show to run.

Fox took a gamble on this show, for a cast considered of so-called "tokens" may not appeal to the white majority in America. The pilot of the show got a surprisingly positive result; however, Fox was expecting the ratings and viewers to drop for the second episode. This is a common trend among new TV shows - many people tune in for the pilot, but then don't return next week.

However, Empire became even more successful this week. Empire had a total of 10.29 million viewers on Wednesday night. The number of people tuning into Empire went up 5% this week compared to the pilot episode. Usually, if the number of viewers decreases 12% after the pilot episode, then the show is considered very successful. The fact that the number of viewers rose clearly illustrates the surprising success of this show.

Compared to other shows on Wednesday night, Empire did remarkably well. Fox's American Idol, which came on right before Empire, got a total of 10.66 million views. This is only 0.37 million more views than Empire, and American Idol has already been running for 14 seasons. American Idol has had years to build up its audience, while Empire has only had one week. Criminal Minds, a popular show on CBS, also aired at 8/9 C on Wednesday night (same time slot as Empire). Criminal Minds only got 10.17 million viewers, so Empire had a larger audience than an extremely popular show. People chose to watch Empire over Criminal Minds on Wednesday night.

The early success from this show proves to Fox and all other networks that Americans will have positive feedback about an African American drama. Hopefully, the success can continue and we can continue to have more African Americans staring in shows for other reasons than just being a "token".