Dehumanizing the Negro

Dehumanization is the act of removing humanness from individuals by denying them things such as individuality, compassion, and civility. Part of the process involves instilling a sense of otherness and animalistic tendencies. For example, starving your subjects to the point where they gorge on sustenance once they receive it. Doing so in a public display allows you to point out their barbaric ways and let others bear witness.  A pivotal scene in the modern film Django Unchained allows us a glimpse into the minds of those that tried to justify the enslavement of fellow human beings. Leonardo DiCaprio used a ball pein hammer to crack a skull and point out the ridges in it that indicated African Americans were predisposed to submission. Phrenology and other pseudosciences gave way to an era of scientific racism and a general effort to prove through hard facts that not only were blacks inferior, but those of European ancestry were superior to every race. It was believed that other races did not feel pain as Europeans did and it was used to justify the harsh treatments of natives during British imperialism.

The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment is one of the most well documented cases of such efforts. Scientists recruited the already infected  and newly infected some African American men. They were told they were receiving free health care and being treated for bad blood (another name for anemia at the time). The scientists even made efforts to prevent them from receiving treatment from other health facilities so that they could study the full effects o the disease. Although the men were not notified of their infected status, doctors used the information gained from the study to say that African Americans were so hyper-sexual, that they readily slept with diseased individuals. They allowed the men to freely pass on the disease to their wives and in turn their children. Each fact poised by scientists helped to further justify the mistreatment of African Americans and ignore their needs for a society in which they are not only equal, but human.

In the book “Dying in the City of Blues,” sickle cell anemia is ignored and passed off as a black disease or a consequence of living on the river. It is often referred to as “the shakes,” “the ager,” or “the fever.”  People were pushed into tight communities in order to contain it’s spread. It’s not until the disease can be profited from and the looming threat of integration, that it receives the attention it deserves. For a long time, African Americans had become accustomed to suffering in silence and had a learned distrust of the U.S. healthcare system. Sickle Cell Anemia becomes synonymous with the ignoring of the plight and struggles of Black Americans.  Pain and diseases were allowed to ravage the black community because they weren’t worth the effort to treat. They were a dirty thing that would continue to spread diseases amongst one another. The dehumanization of Black Americans has served an important role in the rationalization of their treatment and mistreatment.

Believing We’re All Middle Class

When you think about class structures in America, you tend to only think of one, the middle class. I think about all the times I have heard someone describe themselves, it’s always middle class. I honestly cannot remember a single time when someone has categorized themselves as something else. Even teachers often make the mistake of saying “Well all of you are sitting in a college classroom so it’s safe to assume you are all at least middle class.” However, this is simply not the case. I personally know several people that their families fall under the working poor class and are still able to go to college. Thanks to scholarships, they are able to attend college and sometimes receive some refund to live off of. If not, they find a job and live off of the job.

Why are we stuck as a society believing we are all middle class? One reason is because nobody wants to say or admit they are poor. Being poor has a bad connotation to it, it means you’re either homeless, or just about there. If you can eat a couple meals per day, sleep in a bed at night, or have a car, you can’t be poor. Since the south has the majority of the poorest states, which leads to majority of the poor people, America couldn’t allow the southern people to feel left out, so they created a symbol. It’s called country. If you have pots and pans to catch the rain from the roof, you’re country. If you have to plant a garden instead of buying your groceries, you’re country. Therefore, since you are making it, you are middle class, not poor.   Just think of all those homeless people out there. Those are the people we save the term poor for. On the flip side, calling yourself rich is an absolute no-no. There’s always someone out there that can put you to shame so they’re the “rich” ones, not you. That only leaves us with middle class. Believing we are middle class puts our mind at ease. We are able to feel good about ourselves because we are “making it” in the world, but we don’t feel good enough to feel guilty at all the things we can afford.

Politicians, especially, milk this for all its worth. If you had a nickel for every time the term “middle class” was used in campaigning last election, you would be set for life. They do this because it’s the one term that speaks to everyone. If wealth inequality continues to separate as it has in the recent past, America will soon have no middle class. There will be only a rich class and a poor class. Currently the top 20% hold 85% of the nation’s wealth. That just leaves the remaining 80% of people with 15% of the wealth. Granted some American’s are in fact middle class, however the majority of American are not. According to two different polls, the Gallop and Pew, over 50% of American’s would classify themselves as middle class. Until we develop class consciousness, especially southerners, nothing is going to change. We must see through the lie that we have been fooled into believing and change the system. Don’t allow people to tell you it’s acceptable to live below standards just because you “live in the country”. Realistically evaluate yourself and those living around you and get up and do something about it.

A Basketball Addicted City in the South

Do not get me wrong I am not saying that Memphis is the only area in the southeast that loves basketball. I am saying that when the weather starts declining in temperature that most of this SEC ridden area begins to drool over the idea of gathering around a TV and watching the sport of football. In Memphis jackets and pants weather can only mean one thing, that the Tigers and Grizzlies are about to do what they do best and get cheered on by the blood curdling yells of some of the best fans in the country. Again, just to clear my name I love football, I really do, but growing up a Memphis Tigers fan has made me numb to the negative effects of your school not having a stellar football season. When it comes to my cities’ basketball teams my expectations go from ground level to bursting through the ceiling. I expect nothing but greatness as each season approaches. Most of the conversations between my friends and myself consist of how far we believe the Tigers and Grizzlies with go in the ensuing season.

When that first loss comes whether it be from the defending national champs or some team we fluffed the schedule with they both hurt, bad. We all have that sick feeling in our stomachs that sticks with us until the next game and win. When that first big win comes there is enough electricity running through your body to heat your house for the winter, and all you can think or talk about for the next few days are the plays and players that impressed you the most.

The thing that also happens in Memphis during basketball season that makes the sport seem that much more magical is that the city seems to unite during the limited gap in time that is basketball season. No matter what social class you come from during that winning season you never seem to have trouble talking and cheering with anyone around you. The mood seems lighter wherever you go. If the good Lord allows it and the Tigers make an impressive run in March or the Grizzlies slug their way through the western conference tournament the whole city is seemingly watching the same thing.  No matter the outcome we always keep our sense of pride about our basketball teams, almost as to say “yeah, you beat us but we are still better than you.”

All around us there are people cheering for their schools on the gridiron while we sit patiently waiting the moment where we get to pack ourselves into the FedEx Forum and scream like Romans spectating gladiators.  It is that brutality that brings us together and makes one of the best basketball fan base around. While I wish the city could have the comrodery we seem to have during basketball season all the time, I can deal with five months a year for now. With March Madness less than twenty-four hours away, I know i am not the only one who is screaming in their seats in excitement.


A Blessing in Disguise

I am sure we can all agree that there has been some circumstance in our life in which we were unhappy with the cards we had been dealt, maybe trying to reject them; then sometime in the future looked backed only to realized that whatever those cards may have been, the way they panned out actually turned out to be for the better. These situations and circumstances may appear negative or make us unhappy in the moment but in the end we realize how they actually turned out to be “a blessing in disguise”. Our own personal ignorance is what kept us from realizing it in the beginning. This idea of a “blessing in disguise” is something the city of Memphis has continually experienced and will continue to experience they need to realize it.

One way that Memphis has experienced this concept was through Blues music. When the style of Blues (a mixture of folk, jazz, and rock & roll) first emerged in the city it was rejected by majority of Memphians. They viewed it as slander that was anti-religious, more specifically anti-Christian. The city and significant people did not support the music until it began getting national attention and interest. With such popularity and interest the Blues brought attraction to the city, making it a tourist attraction and the historical birthplace of such a unique and historical style. This boosted the city making the blues “a blessing in disguise”.

Another way Memphis has experienced “a blessing in disguise” was through Sickle-Cell Anemia. The disease became extremely prevalent affecting many Memphians during the early 20th century while many African Americans were migrating to the urban city from their rural suburbs due to lack of job. In the beginning the disease was very negatively frowned upon and even more severely segregated the population in Memphis. Sickle-Cell was considered a genetic disease of outcasts. But Memphis began doing studies on the disease. These studies resulted in much support from the government through grants and eventually Memphis became the first to open a clinic for the disease. This gained national attention and appreciation as the disease was widespread throughout the country. What at one time seemed to be such a degrading disease for the city is now something Memphis’ studies on the disease are world renowned. This disease opened many doors medically for Memphis which was “a blessing in disguise”, especially during the time of high rising unemployment and poverty in the city. Sickle-cell and everything that came along with at one time may have been what kept the city from going under.

Memphis is a city that has been forced to face many challenging situations which in their time seem so undesirable  but as we see has only helped the city come out better off and more well-known. During these times many controversies and unhappy citizens fill the city but it is due to the fact that they cannot see the “blessing in disguise”. So before discrediting the city and trying to get out as fast as possible due to a little rain on the parade, as Memphians we need to realize that it is a city which has been built on struggles and that what appear to be such a struggle or so negative might just  turn out the opposite. It might make history and be what keeps the city in function. Think twice before running for the hills because many of the issues currently facing Memphis , as negative or bad as they may seem, may turn out to be “a blessing in disguise” that could make history. People must remember that the most amazing gifts do not always come in the best packages. As seen through Memphis’ history it is only a matter of time before the current grind it is facing turns into a blessing.

Delicious Southern Food!!!


The south is known for many great attractions, but the food has to be the overall best attraction thus far! Yes! Southern food tastes like no other type of food. For example, people travel from all over the world just to eat in the south. Many of my family members from Detroit and Florida is always asking me to bring them food when I come to visit. Barbecue is a well known southern food that everyone seems to crave. Especially Memphis, the barbecue is finger-licking good, and the meat falls right off the bones! I can’t forget about the most important food, and that’s SOUL FOOD. Soul food does something to my body, and I feel so good after I eat it. I get tired of eating fast food, but I can never get tired of eating “REAL” food. Vegetables are so delicious and in the south they are usually handpicked and extra fresh. My grandmother makes the best greens, candied yams, meatloaf, and cornbread. I had to say that because she takes pride in everything she cooks. Every piece of food she cooks is from scratch, and that is very significant for southern women. I also like “Pappadeaux” in Atlanta because they have a delicious fish and grits meal. Nothing represents the south like some fried catfish. Atlanta is also known for having “Gladys Knight and Ron’s Chicken and Waffles”, and the chicken there tastes amazing. I absolutely love ‘B.B. King’s” in Memphis because they serve a great Filet Mignon and mashed potatoes. But “The Grille” restaurant in Memphis has the best grilled food I’ve ever tasted. I like traveling to New Orleans because they serve a spicy gumbo that I must have when I visit. Seafood is significant in southern style foods because there is nothing like fish, shrimp, and lobster. The south is also known for frying everything. For example, in many southern family households, fried chicken is on the menu majority of the time. Eating southern style food makes anyone feel at home, so many people visit only to eat. Southern food brings families together, and it keeps families close. Many African American families use this type of food to connect to their roots and/or culture. I appreciate food in the south because in other regions the food does not taste as good. For instance, food in California is horrible, so the only food I enjoy is sushi, on the west coast. Up north I only enjoy the pizza and pasta. In Chicago, I tend to only eat breakfast food because they don’t have many soul food spots. Therefore, I can’t say it enough; there is no other type of food that can compare to food in the south. Banana pudding is another one of my favorites. I remember as a child in the summer, we would sit in the backyard and eat banana pudding while watching the clouds roll by. Southern food keeps memories alive, and makes people happy. The south has the most delicious food on earth, and I absolutely love it!

Here in the United States people take sex to lightly. Some people think that just because that person does not look like they have a disease or think they have known that person for so long that they can be trusted. But in reality when you are having sex out of wed lock you definitely need to protect yourself.  Because like my mother told me every thing that look good to you is not good for you.  He could be the finest man on earth and you have sex with him unprotected that five maybe 10 minutes can ruin your life forever.

Even now a days you can not even trust your husband or boyfriend because there has been cases reported about husband’s giving their wives and boyfriends giving their girlfriends STD’S and even sometimes HIV.  It’s a story about a woman getting Hiv and her husband knew it and he didn’t even tell her After a doctor called with the lab results, life would never be the same for a 29-year-old Chattanooga woman.She learned her husband of nearly five years had given her HIV. He’d never even told her he had it, even though she’s pregnant with his child.”That day changed my life forever,” she said. “Just because he didn’t pull the trigger doesn’t mean this is not a murder.”

This is only one of many stories . You have to be very careful now a days. I know you might be thinking if I can not trust my husband or I can’t trust my wife what Is the point of being married.

I feel that no one is perfect and if you make a mistake and you step out on your wife or husband you should protect yourself because a night of pleasure unprotected can sometimes change your whole life forever. So be careful and always protect yourself .


Wealthy and Healthy

In the South, especially Memphis, we have a plethora of hospitals with very high credentials. Is it all a joke? Why are there so many hospitals in the South? Why won’t people go receive the healthcare help they need and receive treatment from the hospitals here? Healthcare is an imporant issue in today’s news, simply because it is a universal necessity. In Memphis, there are people dying senselessly. There are hospitals here in Memphis specifcally, capable of hosting these patients and helping them, but it is not cheap. Being seen in the emergency room, after waiting a couple of hours you will most likely spend any where from 200-500 dollars. Insurance and their qualifications make it hard for everyone to be accepted. I have witnessed people become stressed worrying about how to pay for their hosptial bill. In the past, African Americans were not the highest prioity when it came to receiving treatment. African Americans were viewed as strong and tough. White doctors often disregarded the fact that they needed treatment. Although times have changed, people are almost afraid of going to the doctor. They simply make their symptons minor and never go. Many diseased people find out long after they have contracted the disease or sickness. Even if people are sick, they often try home remedies before going to the doctor or the hosptial. After they finally realize they should go, they are given minimum treatment because they do not have insurance or they simply have the wrong insurance. In class, we discused Memphis’ ambivalence, which ultimately came down to should we help the people with sickle cell or not. That is still the question in the year 2013. As a people, we are worried about having to pick up the tab of someone elses bill. Although when it is our family member, we want everyone to contribute to the cause. It is amazing how years later, the same situation is still an issue, even though sickle cell is not the main focal point, it has become broader and more widespread. The Afforadable Healthcare Act is still trying to be passed. I am not sure if this will be the answer to America’s healthcare problems, but it sure would help to bring in a breath of fresh air. African Americans in the south need to do better as a whole regarding their health and their well being. I can honestly say that I need to make better eating choices and exerceise more. As a twenty year old young lady, I do not visit the doctor annually. I just do not have time, and it honestly never crosses my mind until something bothers me. That is just how it goes in my family, and I know my friends are the same way. It is important to know what is going on in your body, but it is also very expensive and becomes a huge issue if something is wrong. Not attending the doctor annually can be compared to the saying,”if it aint broke, then don’t try to fix it”. I am aware that it could possibly be a southern attribute, but I’m sure people everywhere think like this. If visiting the doctor did not require a copay and staying in the hosptial did not cost you a month worth of rent then maybe people would go more. In the South, people should not feel like going to the hosptial is a burden and feel obligated to know that the hospital is there to help them. Being healthy is not only limited to the wealthy, it is for everyone because everyone deserves to live.

Class Systems

When it comes to the different class system people tend to say they are middle class when asked by someone. In actuality most people fall below the middle class system. I know I am guilty of this when I am asked by someone what class I consider myself to be apart of. Actually I fall in the working poor category because my parents do not make over a certain amount of money to be considered middle class. It is often said that whatever class system that you grew up in that is the class you will forever stay in for the rest of your class. I plan to become a teacher when I graduate from college so that means I will remain in my current working class system. The working class generally works on an hourly wage rather than for an annual salary.

People who are considered middle class are either in the lower end of middle class or the upper end of middle class. The lower end of middle class tends to make more money than the working class and they have more education than the working class. I was not aware that the middle class was broken up into two components. Once it was broken down that way it made more sense about middle class. Most people claim they apart of the middle class because they are too ashamed to say they belong to the working class or working poor. It just seems ideal to say that you belong to middle class so that you will not be an outsider. The upper middle class tends to make hundreds of thousands annually. They tend to be well educated and hold high paying job positions or titles. More than likely they have more leisure with the own work schedule and they probably are more likely to manage other people at work. When I think of upper middle class I think about people who are on the verge of being upper class according to the U.S. standards.

People like Oprah Winfrey and Bill Gates are considered to be apart of the upper and elite class. These people are more in the upper class because they have new money and people with new money are often looked down upon because they have not always had their money which in my opinion should not matter because all money spends the same way. People that are apart of the elite class are born into this class. It usually takes a few generations to be considered elite. Even though Oprah Winfrey and Bill Gates have elite status money they are not apart of the elite class because they were not born into money. The elite class do not work during their lifetime. As far as education they go to school abroad or they go to boarding schools. When it is time for their children to go to college they go to ivy league schools to receive what is considered the best education. If I had a chance to choose what class I would want to be apart of I would choose upper middle class because I would still like to work for things that I want in life but I also want to live comfortably and not have to worry about things that the working class and lower middle class has to worry about.

Gender Matters

In class last week we discussed the topic of sickness. We questioned whether or not people naturally get sick. I was always taught that a human being grows old, gets sick, and dies. So, in my mind, the answer would be yes, everyone will naturally get sick. But, it was brought to my attention that sickness doesn’t generally happen unless pre-genetic. Of course, people get colds and things of that nature, but the chronic illnesses don’t usually happen naturally. This was interesting to me because I’ve always thought that getting sick was just in the cards for everyone, but I was wrong. We went on to discuss major illnesses like cancer, obesity, and heart disease. I was also surprised to learn that women are more likely to die of heart disease than men.

Heart disease is an extremely serious issue, so to discover that doctors don’t properly diagnose women with it baffled me. Men tend to properly get diagnosed because they don’t go to the doctor as often as women do. If a man goes to the doctor complaining of heart problems or pain, the doctor will be more inclined to run some tests and look at it as a serious problem they need to take care of. But if a woman goes to the doctor complaining of the same symptoms as a man, the doctor is less likely to take her seriously simply because women take more frequent trips to the doctor’s office than men. The doctor will probably just end up telling her she needs to get some rest or that she’s just stressed. Gender inequality at its finest!

I was a little upset after learning about this gender bias towards women so I did a little research. Apparently, women are treated less aggressively for heart disease than men. One of the reasons people may accept this is because it has been said that women have different symptoms than men, and the diagnostic tests may not be as accurate in women. So in order to detect heart disease in women, there are different methods, as well as different treatments that need to be acknowledged. However, this does not give doctors the right to simply ignore a woman when she complains of heart problems. It means that doctors should strive harder to detect these symptoms in women because they see now that they are more difficult to find.

It has also been said that a woman’s heart is different from a man’s heart. The research that I found wasn’t as much as I would’ve liked, but it’s enough. I did conclude that a woman’s heart is smaller than a man’s heart, as well as a woman’s arteries. Research shows that it takes a woman’s heart longer to relax after every heartbeat. This could coincide with the fact that women have a 50% chance of dying during heart surgery than men, due to fact that a woman’s heart operates differently. Researchers also believe that is why women are more likely die after their first heart attack.

Heart attack symptoms are different in women, which brings me back to my first point about doctors not properly diagnosing women. Women often tend to complain about pain under their breastbone, indigestion, abdominal pain, nausea, and difficulty breathing. Doctors easily misinterpret symptoms of a heart attack with a gall bladder disease or some sort of anxiety attack. Women are also more likely to experience a heart attack later on in life, especially when they have other diseases such as diabetes, that sometimes connect to heart attack symptoms.

I’ve said all of this to say that doctors have got to be more careful. It’s quite simple if you ask me. Doctors, I know you all are busy, but it’s vital that you all take the proper precautions when it comes to women. Yes, we do visit the doctor more than men, and yes it may not always be about something drastic. But, it is the doctor’s job to take our feelings into consideration. Do not simply ignore us and send us home with a note to get some over the counter medicine. I think it’s much more to it. I found all of this research about how different a woman’s heart is which means that the information is out there. We are becoming more knowledgeable about the gender differences, therefore doctors should really take us more seriously. We know that the diagnostic tests aren’t always accurate in women so there has to be other ways to detect it. All I’m saying is that women deserve the same treatment as men. If it takes a few more extra tests or a few more extra dollars, so what! Aren’t we worth it? According to James Brown, this is a man’s world, but it would be nothing without a woman or a girl.

They (Almost) Paved Paradise


If the city of Memphis had its way, my house would literally be an exit ramp right now. I have seen the map of the proposed path of I-40 through Midtown. Luckily that tragedy was averted, albeit narrowly. Instead, my house sits on a tree-shaded street in the part of the Evergreen district that was saved from a concrete destiny as part of our national highway system. As Wanda Rushing explained in her book Memphis and the Paradox of Place, a gaggle of ‘little old ladies in tennis shoes’ saved this jewel that is Midtown from becoming another exit on a cross-country interstate. The lot my house sits on was one of the hundreds near Overton Park that were cleared via the use of eminent domain back in the late 1960s for the proposed highway that would have bisected the park. Ironically, as I read Rushing’s chapter detailing this near-miss, I was sitting on my front porch swing enjoying the sights and sounds of my unique Midtown neighborhood.

When I moved to Memphis in 1987 I was confused by the large swath of empty lots just west of the park. When it was explained to me that an expressway had been expected to be erected there I thought Memphians must truly be crazy. In all five cities I had lived in prior to Memphis, no city had such a beautiful park as Overton, such pretty architecture as the homes that surrounded it, nor the eclectic flavor of an urban area such as Midtown has.  I still find it astounding that Memphians at that time thought that destroying Overton Park and its environs would be a good thing for Memphis.

One of the lots on Overton Park Avenue once held a house that my grandmother grew up in around 1910.Two more houses she lived in during the early 1900s were also lost to ‘urban progress’! I-240 destroyed both of those houses, one on Waldran Avenue near Poplar, and the other on Minna Place, near Lamar. To think that every home her family lived in was destroyed by interstates is sad. The empty lots in Midtown were like scars on the landscape.

The lots near the park lay dormant for many years until they were finally released to developers in the 1990s. Now almost all have homes built on them, and families once more fill the lots with activity: children playing games in the front yards, husbands raking leaves, wives setting out Halloween pumpkins on the front porches. Thanks to a thoughtful person in the city’s zoning office, all new construction had to match the period architecture of the surrounding neighborhood. Newcomers to the area usually can not tell the difference between the original and the new homes, and thus the scar has healed.

From my living room I can hear the whistle from the kiddie train at the zoo, and if it is a clear day I can hear the monkeys screaming. My grandmother used to tell me she could hear the zoo’s lion roaring from her house on Overton Park Avenue, and although I often listen for him, I have not heard him yet. But thanks to those little old ladies in tennis shoes, I just may yet.