Tutor profile: Amari G.
What makes a good topic sentence?
In an essay, a good topic sentence will both introduce your paragraph, as well as summarize its main idea. It should give the reader a clear understanding of where your paragraph is going and how it contributes to overall thesis of your essay.
What is race?
Race is a falsified, social invention with no scientific backing. The hard sciences show that humans are homogenous, with projects such as the human genome project displaying that all humans are more than 99% the same. As a whole, scientific research shows that there is no actual evidence for race be considered biologically or genetically founded. Historically, race has been used as a political tool to uphold “whiteness,” meaning to uphold political systems, economic power, and social power for free white men. The constant adjusting and changing of what it means to be white or American, the two often conflated, displays how race is a construct and is used as a political system. For example, these changes of racial categories can be seen with the evolution of the census in the United States. At first, the census displayed that race was merely determined by if a person was free or not, and therefore white/American. As time evolved towards the 19th century, other categories such as Irish appeared, showing a change in racial definitions again and further clarifying who is white and who is not. The idea that race is constantly being redefined and is a social invention can also be observed with the changing definition of who can be a citizen. The definition of who was white, and thus who could be American, has constantly changed throughout history. Both the PBS film Race: The Power of an Illusion and Dorothy Roberts’ “Fatal Invention” address the example of Bhagat Thind Singh, an immigrant from the Punjab region of India. At first, Singh was classified as white by the courts because science at the time declared that Indians were Caucasians and thus white. Thind also asserted that he was a high caste Aryan and should be considered white due to his high status. However, “science” was rejected and Thind was denied access to whiteness because the courts did not view him to be white, meaning he was a brown skinned man from India and did not fit their idea of white racial, political purity. The fact alone that institutions have to step in and uphold racial categories and definitions further displays that race is not a factual and biologically certified phenomenon, but instead a legally defined socio-political system. While race is not biologically real, it is real in its consequences, and race is a social invention that continues to affect the lives of all people in the United States.
Subject: Ethnic Studies
What civil rights campaigns fueled and fermented the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s? How were intersectional marginalized groups, such as Black women, integral to these movements?
Both in the media and the classroom, the Civil Rights Movement (CRM) is often framed as a single, isolated event that arrived out of a need to desegregate schools and the United States as a whole. The CRM is also almost always discussed in terms of the brave, middle class, Black men that led the movement. However, these dominant narratives do not represent the whole truth of the Civil Rights Movement. Not only was important work being done prior to the CRM that helped pave the way for the movement, but Black people were also revolutionizing ideology surrounding Black power and identity for years prior. Black women and working class peoples were also much more integral than the dominant narratives frequently acknowledge. By revisiting the labor union fights in the 1940-50s, the development of uplift ideology, and the work of Black women during the CRM, I will challenge the false portrayals of the CRM. Before the CRM occurred, Black people were working to achieve ideological and intra-communal liberation. A key example of how Black people were working to progress their status and fight against oppression in such a way is the creation of uplift ideology. Kevin Gaines explains that uplift ideology “describes a prominent response of black middle-class leaders, spokespersons, and activists to the crisis marked by the assault on civil and political rights of African Americans primarily in the U.S. South from roughly the 1880s to 1914” (Gaines). Uplift ideology was marked by attempts to prove to (white) society that Black people were not as lazy, immoral, culturally depraved, and idiotic as the representation at the time portrayed. Predominantly upper class Black people engaged in this ideology through the utilization of Black organizations, philanthropy, art, labor, economics, and more. An example of these efforts can be found in Booker T Washington’s Awakening of the Negro. In his writing, he advocates for Black Americans to embrace labor as a means to uplift the race, “every year we put into a Southern community colored men who can start a brick-yard, a sawmill, a tin-shop, or a printing-office — men who produce something that makes the white man partly dependent upon the negro, instead of all the dependence being on the other side, — a change takes place in the relations of the races” (Washington 326). While uplift ideology was rather problematic, as it excluded and further marginalized lower class Black people, the uplift movement represents the beginning efforts to answer the question of how to attain better social conditions for Black people before the 1960s. The CRM was preceded by working class unionization struggles in the 1940s-50s. The ‘40s-50s were a post-war era marked by economic opportunity. However, these opportunities were not fully accessible to African Americans, as they often faced unequal treatment in the workplace. For example, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, the workforce for the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company was predominately Black. However, most of the Black workers within this company “made only a few cents above minimum wage, and benefits were few. [Additionally,] Black women workers experienced frequent verbal and occasional sexual abuse” (Korstad and Lichtenstein 788). In response to such abuses and injustice, Black working class people mobilized. They organized, working to unionize and fight against oppression in order to guarantee equity in the workplace. These fights are viewed as the incipient struggles of the civil rights era, “The civil rights era began, dramatically and decisively, in the early 1940s when the social structure of black America took on an increasingly urban, proletarian character” (Korstad and Lichtenstein 786). The struggles of the working class were an essential stepping stone towards the watershed moments of the CRM a few decades later, with the working class paving the way for civil rights fights. Lastly, Black women were more central to the CRM than common narratives tend to emphasize. Prior to the CRM, Anna Julia Cooper noted how women are integral to uplifting Black people. In her speech “Womanhood: A Vital Element in the Regeneration and Progress of a Race,” Cooper explains how empowering and progressing the race ultimately falls into the hands of Black women because they hold the power to shaping future generations due to their maternal impact on Black socialization. Cooper’s words were only proven in the coming years, as powerful women such as Ella Baker, Fannie Lou Hammer, Rosa Parks, and more led the CRM. Black women also served as “bridge leaders” during the CRM. Belinda Robnett explains how during the Civil Rights Movement, bridge leaders, who were most often Black women, would bring the wishes and desires of the more marginalized populations of the movement’s constituencies and to the leaders of the movement and thus create a more cohesive, inclusive movement overall (Robnett 1677). Despite being excluded from the formal leadership, these grassroot, Black, female organizers were critical mobilizers for the CRM. Without Black women, the fight for civil rights would not have been nearly as successful. The CRM was not an isolated event in American history, nor was it only led by middle and upper class men. Instead, it was a movement that was in the making ideologically and strategically for decades prior. The movement also critically relied on working class Black people and women, despite dominant narratives implying otherwise. It is essential that history be taught in its full truth; partial truth merely leads to perpetuation of misinformation and marginalization.
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