Adam Abo Ryah Mokhalalati.
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Martin Luther King, 1963.
Choosing this great quote by Dr. Martin Luther King might, at first, appear unrelated to what I will be discussing in my cultural product. However, looking carefully at when these powerful words were said; point us out to a significant aspect of the American life during that era, it was on the 28th of August 1963 when King gave his famous speech about freedom, two hundred thousand Americans (white and black) gathered up in Washington, D.C. for a political rally (March on Washington). The public was fed up by the inequality that segregation caused, African- Americans demanded their basic rights of having jobs and freedom, but didn’t Emancipation already free slaves and gave them their natural rights? That’s when the date of that speech and March become vital to discover the history of African Americans, even though the Emancipation Act issued on 1863 was more or less just ink on papers, black people continued to experience discrimination throughout the postwar years. The status of the freed Blacks was an issue that remained unresolved, the Southerners didn’t want to lose the labor force they enjoyed during slavery, yet the whites on the other side still believed that black people didn’t deserve a ‘humanitarian’ treatment, and that slavery is done for their favor, as we saw in the Ethnic Notions movie that blacks were deliberately showed to be animals usually found on the trees and in inhuman places.
In result, former Confederacy states needed to find a substitute for enforcing white supremacy, after the “Slave Codes” were cleared out by the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th Amendment. For that, the formation of the “black codes” in 1866 followed by Jim Crow Laws in the 1880s was a necessary act by the Southern states to achieve their agenda, these new laws had a giant impact on the Black culture which will be discussed later on. Above is one among dozens of pictures that were taken during the March on Washington D.C. August 28th, 1963, showing a crowd of demonstrators gathered next to the famous Washington Monument, demanding for job opportunities and racial equality. Thousands of people came from across the United States, the South and the North united to make this march successful, people believed that there is a better America than Alabama, Mississippi or Texas, where children been met with violence (fire hoses and dogs were to be used in these states).
The famous Civil Rights Movement photographer, Bruce Davidson, took that picture during the March on Washington. Born in Oak Park, Illinois, 1933, he started capturing pictures around the age of 10; his career lasted for 50 years, including photographs that talked about political and local issues. From 1961 to 1965, Bruce Davidson composed one of his most outstanding projects that earned him the first National Endowment for the Arts; known as “Time of Change.” His principle aim was to attract the American public to understand that terrorism wasn’t just a war fought outside the United States and that African Americans were experiencing it at home, “delivered upon them by their fellow citizens, often under the cover of law.”
During the 1960s African Americans were ‘fighting’ for their civil rights, hundreds of demonstrations took place, and thousands of them started challenging Jim Crow laws by going into segregated areas. Publishing these photographs played a very important role in spreading the image of inequality; it targeted different audience (banker, politicians, etc.) in terms of what reality actually stood for, starting from violence and ending with social and economic injustice, something needed to be done, especially that the federal government stayed out of the civil right conflict as far as 1964. Until the present time, “Time of Change” is considered as a masterpiece, it is more or less a cultural treasure for African Americans, being shown in many different museums such as the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Photography. In my opinion, this great piece of work could be considered as a source of motivation for the black people to continue their ancestors’ path of achieving full equality, and to create an end of racism, because there is still some radical thoughts among this great nation that should and must be eliminated
Choosing this image, as my cultural product might not directly link to me personally, it does, however, relate closely to the lifestyle of the Indian, Bangladesh and Pakistani population in the Gulf Peninsula. As an Arab born in Syria, we were raised on high moral values of human equality represented precisely during the peace of era, in which purely mirrors the genuine and authentic values of Islam (before the outbreak of the Civil war that changed the aspects of life). It might be hard to admit the relentless, crucial and terrible conditions that the labor force experience out there. However, moving to Qatar allowed me to witness these horrible conditions that no human being could ever accept, it is almost like slavery. It might be true that they aren’t segregated from the general public, but they are still mistreated throughout their daily life, which “is not simply characterized by harsh working conditions, but injustices that deny this portion of the population basic human rights.” *(9)
“I think there’s a point at which money, influence, and power become so blinding that people believe they control the world,” Iris Sawyer, this quote is a great way to represent the ideology of the GCC governments. South Asian immigrants experience horrible aspects of injustice such as, confiscating their passports upon arrival as a way to apply a travel ban, being paid insufficient wages, and having to work up to 14 hours per day under the ‘deathly’ temperature that could reach up to 50 degrees Celsius. As well as having to live in isolated, overcrowded and heartbreaking labor camps (i.e. Al Quoz), this isolation allows the governments to “overlook the unsanitary and ghastly living conditions of migrants workers.” *(12) Even if they were to think about protesting they would be met with violence and terror, much worse they could be simply deported from the country alongside their families. Also, talking salary wise, there is a tremendous diversity in the GCC countries depending on ethnicity and nationality; basically, people are judged based on their origin instead of knowledge or experience. For example, my father works as a Consultant Pediatrician at a private hospital, but he, however, gets paid half the salary as his fellow American citizen colleague, even though they share similar qualifications and degree in Medicine. Foreign residences need an exit permit to leave the country! So couldn’t all of that be called modern slavery?
The idea of white supremacy justified for the Southerners the abuse and inequality, between 1890 and 1915, Jim Crow laws covered every aspect of black life among the 11 states that withdrew from the Union. There were merely two types of segregation, ones that were covered by the law known as “de jure” and others that were a public practice “de facto.” The laws varied from a state to the other, Georgia for example banned the bury of colored persons in a land that was used for whites, and Kentucky banned the whites from marrying black people, railway companies were to provide equal accommodations for colored and white passengers as long as they were separate. In the South, blacks were to grow the cotton and jobs in industries were reserved for the whites, creating the “Negro’s place” concept, which referred to their location in culture, as well as where they’d fit in the economy.
However, African Americans knew that separate always meant unequal, so they started to look for building community institutions such as schools, churches, businesses, clubs and lodges, as well as to fight for integration into American institutional life (courts specifically). They knew the importance of education in the advancement of both individuals and the race as whole, but many aspects made education difficult, schools were racially segregated with not as many schools for blacks, the white owners of their farm could at any time pull them out, even if they weren’t needed. Books were almost impossible to have unless white schools passed them down, and as Professor Pittman mentioned these books often included racist phrases and sentences, that the school officials had to erase beforehand. One of the most disturbing facts was the attempt by whites to intimidate the blacks, which resulted in an epidemic of lynching in the South, it became a community events, festivals that parents attended with small children, black people were also subject to disfranchisement- stripping them of the voting right.
In conclusion, African Americans proved throughout the history an active, dedicated and steadfast commitment to defending and claim their rights, as well as to preserve their families, traditions, and beliefs. They rose from an unfair racist system to become world leaders and contributors, a goal that most nations are trying to achieve during the 21st century. Thus, fighting to eliminate some of the radical believes at this current era, shall be viewed as the continuation of a deep-rooted path to achieve full racial equality, because African Americans deserve nothing less than their white fellows.
“March on Washington.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, 2009. Web. 09 Dec. 2015.
“Jim Crow law”. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2015. Web. 09 Dec. 2015
“Black Codes.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, 2010. Web. 09 Dec. 2015. <http://www.history.com/topics/black-history/black-codes>.
Sigal, Calncy. “Remembering My Time at the 1963 March on Washington.” The Guardian. Clancy Sigal, 24 Aug. 2013. Web. 09 Dec. 2015. <http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/aug/24/march-on-washington-anniversary-martin-luther-king>.
Tischauser, Leslie Vincent. Jim Crow Laws. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Greenwood, 2012. Landmarks of the American Mosaic. Web.
* Hamza, Sara, “Migrant Labor in the Arabian Gulf ” (2014). University of Tennessee Honors esis Projects. h p://trace.tennessee.edu/utk_chanhonoproj/1710
Migrant workers from Bangladesh share a room at an apartment shared by other migrant workers in Abu Dhabi Photograph: Sergey Ponomarev/New York Times / Redux / eyevine
Crowds in front of the Washington Monument at the March on Washington. Photograph: Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos © Bruce Davidson /Magnum Photos