Yes, it’s March, and to many, this may seem outdated, but I want to discuss the importance of Black History Month and the continuation of racism. I have been thinking a lot about how racism is still influential in today’s society despite the valiant efforts of the historical Civil Rights and the Black Lives Matter movements. As a black person, particularly at Bates, I feel in many ways isolated and alone. Black History Month is a critical period for people all around the world because it symbolizes the many cultural and emotional implications of race. Black History Month, to me, is the ability to celebrate and pay tribute to the evolution of black people in society. As a child, I always enjoyed watching documentaries such as Eyes On The Prize while learning more about the significance of black people in the United States and in the world. But unfortunately, those times have passed. I have been a victim of racism ever since I was six years old and every day I walk with that pain. Nowadays, I fear for people of color, especially black people, everywhere as we continue to be the targets of hatred. In many ways, race is still being used to dehumanize people of color and uphhold white supremacy. I am saddened not just by how racism is still prevalent in today’s society but how people seem to ignore the signs of one’s pain. I am saddened that even at a school such as Bates, I have been the target of racism and, as a result, have been reluctant to share my story and to speak my truth. Similarly to other kinds of social inequality, people who are victims of racism are ignored by the corrupt institutions of the criminal justice system and the federal government. Even in schools and universities, people of color are often seen as annoyances and burdens to faculty, administration, and other authorities. I wish my experience at Bates was different. I wish I felt secure enough to walk into Commons and not have people look at me with judgment as I walk to my seat. I wish I felt confident enough that every time I spoke up in class, I wouldn’t have to feel worried that people doubted my abilities. I wish I felt safe enough that, every time I walked to my dorm, people wouldn’t question why I am at a school like Bates. And I fear that I don’t have enough support to deal with these emotions. The issue of race is not clear cut, it is multifaceted. People of color come from various different backgrounds and ethnicities. We talk many dialects, and we speak many languages. We have faith in many religions, and we believe in many messages. We are many people, but we are one people. We are not objects. We are not meant to be victims of hatred and discrimination. We are not meant to be part of an elaborate plot to obscure the truth and to misinform people. We are meant to be human beings. We are meant to live our lives to the fullest. We are meant to love. Regardless of what we do, the pain is still here. My experience is painful, to say the least, because the majority of times that I have experienced racism was in a school setting. Despite my best wishes and my misguided optimism, I have experienced racism at Bates. To my surprise, in my time of isolation and vulnerability, people who I didn’t think would support me, did. Those people helped me realize that I am not the only one at Bates who has faced racial injustice. But it hurts to say that people view me as an enemy and as a threat to their lives. I hope that in time Bates as a community does better to address issues such as racism and social issues on campus. I know that if we do our part and work together towards a better future, maybe people like me won’t feel so targeted as much. However, despite this little optimism, I cannot excuse the terrible feeling it is to be a victim of racism. Black History Month is a great way to celebrate black culture and history, but it is not enough to combat the power of racism and discrimination. We must all unite to stand for what is right and to strive for equality.
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If you know at least ten people with a uterus, odds are you also know someone with endometriosis. Endometriosis is perhaps the most common disease you’ve never heard of. Affecting at least ten percent of the female-bodied population, endometriosis is defined as the growth of tissue similar to that of the lining of the uterus on other organs, most commonly the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and intestines. These lesions bleed every month during the menstrual period, and because the blood has nowhere to go, it accumulates inside the body, causing internal bleeding and immense amounts of pain. March is national endometriosis awareness month, but you probably didn’t know that. For a disease that’s so common that it’s almost impossible for you not to know someone affected, endometriosis gets virtually no attention in the media and popular culture. Why is it that America turns pink in October for breast cancer awareness and red in February for heart disease, but not yellow in March for endometriosis? Endometriosis receives so little attention because we are not ready to talk about periods. In American culture, menstruation is shameful, dirty, and disgusting. When I first started my period, I was told to keep it to myself, like I had a secret every month that no one could know about. So, when I began to experience cramps so terrible I was paralyzed with pain, I didn’t tell anyone because I thought I had to keep my secret. I would walk into the school nurse’s office doubled over but told her it was just a headache and it would feel better after lying down. I thought it was normal to lose sleep from period pain, and that all my friends had cramps so terrible they threw up, too. Everyone took days off from school, dance class, or canceled weekend plans even after maxing out on Advil and Tylenol, right? Nobody talked about their period, so how was I supposed to know that most people actually can get out of bed when they have theirs? I accepted my pain as part of being a woman and just something I had to grin and bear. My experience is not uncommon, and too many people suffer in silence. Women are far too often told they are exaggerating their symptoms, or have a low pain tolerance. Because endometriosis affects multiple body organs, women are misdiagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome or pelvic floor dysfunction and sent away without a second thought. The average wait time between when a woman first seeks medical attention to when she is diagnosed with endometriosis is ten years. Not only do women live with unnecessary pain for extended periods of time, but when left undiagnosed and untreated, endometriosis can lead to irreversible organ damage and infertility. The only way to definitively diagnose and treat endometriosis is through laparoscopic surgery, which many women with endometriosis undergo multiple times throughout their lives to preserve fertility and stave off the pain. It is time to get over our fear of periods and give endometriosis and women’s health the attention it deserves, not only from the general public but within the medical community as well. There should be more effective treatments, more options for pain management, less invasive and more efficient means of diagnosis. Menstruation is a natural biological process, and it is not “normal” to be sidelined by period pain every month. Going forward, we must learn not to devalue women for their pain, so that one-day women’s health will not be taboo and fewer women will be led to believe that their suffering is normal.
On Wednesday, February 27, Bruna Benevides, a Second Sergeant in the Brazilian Navy, spoke in Chase Hall. Translated from Portuguese by Visiting Assistant Professor Jacob Longaker, Benevides advocated for tolerance and activism in her hour-long talk.
While Bruna Benevides was serving in Brazil’s Navy, she fought a mental battle unlike any other. As a trans woman, Benevides battled a hyper-masculine environment and countless stigmas all while coming to terms with her gender identity. After Benevides announced to her peers her intent to transition, she was promptly removed from her work due to “transsexualism.” Despite the setback, Bruna fought for her rightful place in the military and was reinstated to her duties in 2016.
As a trans woman, Benevides’ outlook provided a perspective that many Americans rarely get to hear firsthand. Of the 1.4 million people in the United States armed forces, 15,000 are transgender. However, Benevides is currently the only openly transgender servicemember in the Brazilian military, making her a true minority. Benevides’ talk came roughly one month after the United States Supreme Court upheld a ban instituted by President Trump in 2017 that effectively barred all transgender members of the military from service. Benevides responded to the ban by saying, “Once I am able to pass the exams and meet the requirements, it shouldn’t matter whether I am a transsexual woman to continue my work with the force.” She then went on to explain that being transgender did not translate to being incapable of performing duties. Around the midway point of her lecture, Benevides spoke to many criticisms that are commonly put forth in order to advocate against transgender military service. While addressing the argument that transgender military servicemembers usurp military funding, Bruna comically pointed out, that, “The military expenditures for trans members are roughly 0.001% of military spending, whereas the cost of treating erectile dysfunction in the military is significantly higher.”
Benevides moved on to disprove the idea that transgender people as a whole were at a higher risk to commit sexual violence, an argument used to promote bathroom separation bills. She cited that, “There isn’t any registered case of transgender-specific violence in a bathroom.” Finally, she stated, “People say that recovery time is too long to return back to work. It is actually about thirty days to work. The argument that we would be away from work for long is simply not true.” After tackling the common misconceptions, she stated, “There is no argument that is presented that is plausible or understandable that says transgender people can’t serve in the military.” After her lecture, Bruna took time to field the audience’s most pressing questions regarding transgenderism, the military, and life in Brazil. When asked if she was in any danger, Benevides shared harrowing statistics from her home country of Brazil. “In Brazil, a trans person is fourteen times more likely to be assassinated than a cis person.” Despite the danger, Benevides remains positive, revealing that occupying the maximum number of spaces possible is her best form of defense.
In the end, Benevides’ message promoted activism and tolerance across the world. She revealed that her fight was not against the Navy or the institution. Rather, “it is simply a fight that society should recognize that different people exist in the world. Diversity should be recognized and incentivized.”
Before immersing myself in “When I Get Home” this past weekend, I hadn’t heard much of Solange Knowles’ music before. “Cranes in the Sky” had popped up on Apple Music playlists curated especially “for me,” and I knew “Don’t Touch My Hair” was an immensely important cultural statement on behalf of black women. After seeing one of my favorite artists, Dev Hynes (who releases music as Blood Orange) sing Knowles’ praises with regard to her artistic ability, their personal friendship, and most recent album, I listened to “When I Get Home” straight through. I was so intrigued that I then watched Knowles’ new film of the same name, which was released as a companion to the album.
The words ballooned on the homepage of the Nuyorican Poets Café’s website are derived from the quote by the iconic beat poet, Allen Ginsburg: “The Nuyorican Poets Café is the most integrated place on the planet.” Karen Jaime, Ph.D. who came to Bates on Wednesday, February 27, to talk on a particular event hosted by the Café, would probably agree. Jaime’s talk, “Tens Across the Board: The Glam Slam at the Nuyorican Poets Café” was the first in the series, “What is American Studies?” presented by the American Studies Department at Bates.
Jaime is an Assistant Professor of Performing and Media Arts and Latinx Studies at Cornell University. In addition to her many publications in academic journals, Jaime is an accomplished spoken word and performance artist. She acted as the host and curator of the Friday Night Slam at the Nuyorican Poets Café where she received the inspiration for her current book project, “The Queer Loisaida: Performance Aesthetics at the Nuyorican Poets Café.”
The Nuyorican Poets Café, located in the lower east side of New York City, was founded in 1973. Over the past four-and-a-half decades, the Café has served as a multicultural space for groundbreaking work in poetry, visual arts, music, and theater. Nuyorican was an originally pejorative term for members of the Puerto Rican diaspora, but in her talk, Jaime described the way the term has been reclaimed as by the founders of the café to mean an “Aesthetic practice based on the history and politics of both the ethnic marker Nuyorican and its relationship with the café itself.” In her project, Jaime demonstrated that “Nuyorican” came to encompass those who not necessarily identified with a Puerto Rican ethnicity but practiced the same cultural art forms. This allowed for Nuyorican to define Puerto Ricans as well as those in the queer and black community.
The Grand Slam, the culmination of the year’s various poetry slams, is one of the most well-known events at the café. The event Jaime discussed on Wednesday, the Glam Slam, is a linguistic play on the Grand Slam. The Glam Slam was a competition that involved the intersection of the slam poetry community and the queer ball scene. Performers shared their poetry and art with an aesthetic of glamour usually associated with the queer drag scene. Jaime noted that, “The Glam Slam centered queerness not a reason for the happening, but as the reason for the happening.” The Café had always been a location which represented diverse ethnicities and queerness, but, “The combination of the slam poetry community and the ball scene through voice and movement [in the Glam Slam] effectively [developed] a new poetic aesthetic and rubric for queer poets at the Nuyorican Poets Café”, according to Jaime.
Before becoming a host, Jaime was an attendee of the Café and participant in the Glam Slam. In 2002 Jaime competed in and won the Slam. Jaime identifies as Butch Lesbian, and said, “For me, the Glam Slam brought together two communities that I desperately desired to be a part of: spoken word slam poetry and queer nightlife in New York City.”
Jaime used herself as a text in her talk, in form of her personal memories and a video of herself preforming at the Café in order to demonstrate the Glam Slam’s role in defining the Nuyorican aesthetic. The Glam Slam in the Nuyorican Poets Café created a venue for Jaime and others to compete in a space that honored the caliber of their talent while simultaneously accepting them for who they were.
The next installment of the “What is American Studies?” series will be on March 12th and will feature Jami Powell from Dartmouth College in a lecture concerning indigenous representation and institutionalization of native art.
An article from the BBC states that “Skeletons seem to be making a mass exodus from public figures closets of late.” These skeletons must be pushed into the light and faced with the wrath of the public for what they are: a racist exercises of power and white supremacy. As blackface begins to dominate the news and leader after leader is subjugated to the torrent of the public and the media, the apologies have to be called into question. What kind of apology should be accepted by society? Are politicians apologizing for the simple sake of reelection and protecting their public image? How do we hold accountable such fundamental flaws of character, especially when they are direct assaults on people’s race? Throughout U.S. history, media has perpetuated the humor of blackface. Thomas D. Rice was a white New York actor who first developed the concept of blackface as a way to perpetuate the negative stereotypes of African Americans and use them for entertainment. Now known as the “Father of Minstrelsy,” Rice sparked the widespread usage of blackface in theatrics across the country. During a time where many emancipated slaves were advocating for civil rights, whites in the country felt threatened and rallied around racist norms and laws to assert their power over the country. Theatre had a part in this mission, and minstrel shows put cultural ideas of black inferiority into song and dance numbers. Blackface began to fizzle away with the surge of the Civil Right Movement, however one can see that it has not died. The negative vernacular and stereotypes of African Americans has persisted into today. In a time of unkept promises, fluctuating policies, and unpredictability flowing from the White House, many people are hoping for stability in their political offices. Politicians themselves are hoping that with every speech or apology made, it will quell the public dissent and their reign in office will continue. The complexities of the situation escalates when you seperate those politicians whose past wrongful actions were discovered, and those who admitted it in a sign of honesty. In Sorry About That: The Language of Public Apology, a book by Edwin Battistella, the concept of devaluing an apology due to an underlying desire for political gain is discussed. The author argues that many politicians will use conditional language with the audience in a hope to generalize the issue and have it pass with time. Public figures nowadays are less willing to take responsibility for their actions and would rather dodge around the details. Politicians use one of two apology methods in times where their character is questioned by a past event according to Battistella: “the apology tour, a series of speeches and interviews pursued as an expedient opportunity to express regret, versus the non-apology, such as when Oregon Senator Bob Parkwood apologised in 1992 for ‘the conduct that it was alleged that I did.’” In the case of blackface, when a politician has a history of directly participating in the act that is still today a sign of the dehumanization of African Americans and an exercise of white supremacy, an apology cannot be enough. By understanding the roots of a political apology and the self-preservation undertone of the speeches that have made recent headlines, one must never forget the actions to which were committed and the culture they represent.
I absolutely adore video essays. For those who aren’t familiar, video essays are a genre of YouTube content that analyzes media- mostly movies- in both an academic and humorous framework. For reference, look up the channels Wisecrack, Nerdwriter1, and Now You See It. A common meme within this genre focuses on how many creators, for the sake of either filling time or trying to sound smart, will over-analyze movies. They’ll pick apart every single easter egg, shot, or line of dialogue in a film and exaggerate, if not fabricate, its symbolic attributes.
As a politics and psychology double major, I at times receive scrutiny from STEM majors about how I’m “wasting my money” and how I’m unemployable because, apparently, the only thing people in the arts and humanities do is “sit around a classroom and theorize about books.” This couldn’t be further from the truth, but trying to explain the importance of the arts and humanities to a STEM major is often fruitless. Unless your degree qualifies you to work as an engineer or accountant, or allows you to work in a hospital, your degree is virtually useless in their eyes. But why? Why do STEM majors believe that they are superior based solely off of what they are studying in college? Before we can answer that question, we have to conceptualize what it means to be conceited in the first place. We need to shed light on why people, in general, get fixated on this idea that they must constantly prove that they are better than others. Well, it should be no surprise that our capitalistic society- a society that prides itself on the “only the strongest shall survive” mentality- values arrogance. To most people, this attribute is equated with dominance, power, affluence, and prestige. People want complete dominion so they can do whatever they please. People also want money so they won’t be constricted by finances, therefore granting them the opportunity to explore the world and all it has to offer- not even mention how people want to have influence over others so that their legacy can be remembered and make their lives purposeful. So, let’s face it: anyone would act in a pretentious manner if they knew that in the end, they would amass fame and fortune. STEM majors constantly challenge themselves and brag to liberal arts majors about how hard they’re pushing themselves. STEM majors are going to school to be doctors, engineers, and physicists- people who are making a lasting impact on society. So, isn’t it a good thing to be arrogant? Or is that what society wants us to believe? Is there a way to be successful without belittling others for the field of study they chose? Of course there is! Arts and humanities do more than just theorize about life. They have to go into every discussion and provide representation for those who are disfranchised. This is not to say that STEM doesn’t consider marginalized individuals, but it is undeniable that people of color and women don’t have the same representation as cis-gendered heterosexual white men in STEM fields. Arts and humanities give a platform to people to express their individuality and allow people to think outside of the box, unlike STEM majors who use formulas to get a solution. Both types of students, those in liberal arts and those in STEM, have difficulties within their respective fields. Furthermore, saying one is better than the other would simply be illogical. Everyone can shine and be successful in their own areas of study because everyone is doing something different than the next person. We, as a society, need to dismantle this idea of tearing down others in order to get success. Instead, we need to teach people to help each other and recognize the potential in every field of study, because every field is very much needed. No matter what field of study you go into, you can make a lasting impact on society.
On Wednesday, February 27, students entered Commons 221 to find the room set-up differently from the usual presentation layout. Instead of the typical rows of chairs facing a chalkboard, the room was filled with round tables covered with pens and paper. This presentation, one of a three-part series hosted by Lingua Franca, was centered on why people are included or excluded from citizenship.
The set-up of the room was not the only difference between this talk and others. As opposed to a lengthy lecture, there were brief presentations made by Andrew Baker and two students, with the rest of the time being devoted to discussion. Andrew Baker, a professor in the history department, was the first to speak, choosing to pass up his prepared presentation on the history of citizenship in favour of a personal story. Baker is one of a small percentage of Americans to have been born outside of the United States to an American parent. He was born in Canada to an American father, which automatically made him a citizen of both countries. He described his fortune in receiving the privileges of being an American citizen without even having been born there, saying, “I had this legal stake in the United States, even though [as a child] I couldn’t care less.”
Sarah Daehler ’19 has an extremely different relationship with the United States. Born in Switzerland to Swiss parents, Daehler identifies as an immigrant, though she recognizes that her skin color and accent often give people the wrong impression. “People have said to me, ‘you don’t look like an immigrant. You don’t sound like an immigrant,’” she recounted. It took Daehler’s family years of waiting and paperwork to obtain citizenship, and she described her parents having to overcome “absurd” barriers such as proving that no Americans were more qualified for a job than her father. Despite this struggle, most people had no idea that she had this background. She referred to this aspect of herself with, “It’s a minority identity I have, but at the same time it’s a hidden identity.”
Reflecting on these stories, students discussed the inequity between some people receiving automatic citizenship rights, while others being forced to undergo years of struggle to get citizenship or any legal status, even when necessary as an escape from their home countries. Besides the speakers, several students were quick to add their own stories to the conversation, whether first-generation Americans, dual citizens, or born and raised citizens. Alexandra Salazar ’20, another student speaker, contributed to the conversation differently. She described herself as being an American citizen with Colombian heritage. She was raised in Connecticut, where others often assumed she shared the same background as them. She discussed how this impacts her character, commenting, “I haven’t been able to fully take ownership of my identity.”
A common theme between the two student speakers was that their unique identity was only truly realised when they arrived at Bates. Growing up in smaller communities, being at Bates encouraged them to reflect more on their heritage and their relationships with American citizenship. Lingua Franca’s citizenship forum not only gave a formal platform for Andrew Baker and two student speakers to share their identities, but also provided a space for students of all years to have a frank discussion on their own connection to citizenship.
Caroline Apathy ’21, a sophomore from Devon, PA on Bates’ swim and dive team, has been on campus for a little over a year and a half and has already seen the Division III NCAA stage and squashed program records. During her first season as a Bates swimmer, she earned five All-America honors at the 2018 NCAA Championships where she also broke the 200-yard medley relay record with a time of 1:43.86.