April 27, 2017

Slave for a day, free for a lifetime.

Have things changed?

People in the United States of America have gradually formed two camps in the last 4 years. One half still considers Martin Luther King Jr. as the turning point in African American culture and believes that his efforts are essentially responsible for the way black people are treated now and have been the ultimate catalyst for a change in the social order. The other half considers Barack Obama’s presidency as the pivotal moment in black history within America and the one single point that has changed how African Americans are perceived today.

But there exists a small minority which believes that all these developments are nothing but superficial changes in attitudes, and issues are still exactly the same as they were 40 years ago. If you look at everything objectively; they do have hit the bull’s-eye.

Slave for a day

To understand the issues that African American face today, you have to consider the fact that changing half a millennium worth of stereotypes within half a century is a daunting task indeed. Slavery might have been abolished a long time ago by law, but there is no legal piece of paper that can govern the mind of an individual. Many people still categorize African Americans based on the redundant views held by their forefathers and the issue has come to boiling point once again after the controversial ‘Slave for a day’ program by Hampton National Historic Park, which caused outrage and sympathy in equal measure.

According to the authorities, they intended this ‘catchy title’ to attract people to the event. The event itself consisted of working in fields with scythes and hoes and other duties that a slave normally carried out like transporting water buckets. The intent was to create awareness about black history and the issues African Americans faced during these dark ages, ending with a commemoration ceremony dedicated to black history. But people across the country have responded to it with enough acid to stock a school lab for a year. One commentator summed up the outrage by saying that ‘It is too serious an issue to playact’. While the intent on the whole was admirable, the title and related advertising were considered insensitive and the program has since been renamed. Angela Roberts-Burton, the organizer and an African American herself, has defended the whole situation by stating that the activities were meant to give a glimpse of the hard work and atrocities that the slaves endured and the event wasn’t trying to combine and display the whole era in a single day for marketing purposes.


The political ramifications are huge and the whole issue has already rocked Washington with many senators condemning the whole situation. Many support groups and NGO’s have come out in vocal opposition and are threatening to boycott any further activities. But there is another section of the public that has come in support of the Park authorities, as they believe that the whole situation is being blown out of proportion and the organizers should in fact be commended for their efforts in bringing to light the plight of the slaves. They are absolutely spot on.

The American population, fed on popcorn and prejudice, has surprisingly become more insensitive than it was two or three decades ago. Racism is still rampant and the only solution mainstream America has come up with is to make fun of it through TV and Hollywood. Masking racism with laughter isn’t correct as it tends to encourage wrong beliefs and misconceptions, that black people are ‘cool’ with comments and racial attitudes which make fun of their history or color. This immature outlook stems from an inadequate knowledge about African American history and culture and is in fact the most fundamental problem through which these stereotypes emerge. The Hampton National Park authorities should be congratulated on their efforts to get to the root of the problem and show the average American what being a slave actually felt like. This will help broaden one dimensional views and will better equip them to deal with issues of racism. This was the only program that took the issue seriously and castigating them for ‘improper advertising’ is extremely harsh when you consider the fact that these same people have no issues with insensitive advertising on TV or improper portrayal of black people in visual media.

The political class needs to show some spine by supporting the idea behind this event, or any other that take place in the future. They have to educate the electorate about the real issues that plague American society today and to convince them that being a ‘Slave for a day‘ is definitely not a problem; it’s actually a giant leap towards finding a permanent solution.

Supreme Court Declares Individual Health Insurance Mandate Constitutional

On Thursday, the Supreme Court ruled that the individual health insurance mandate is, in fact, constitutional. This is a big victory for supporters of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, and a crushing, humiliating defeat for opponents of “Obamacare”.

The new mandate requires almost every American to obtain some health insurance or pay a penalty. Five of the justices agreed that the mandate fell within the powers granted Congress by the Constitution to “lay and collect taxes.”

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the controlling opinion, upholding the mandate as a tax, although ultimately concluding that this wasn’t a good use of Congress’ commerce clause power.

Ginsburg, who wrote separately from the other liberals, pointed out that they would have likely upheld it under the commerce clause, as well. “Unlike the market for almost any other product or service, the market for medical care is one in which all individuals inevitably participate,” she explained, continuing, “Virtually every person residing in the United States, sooner or later, will visit a doctor or other health care professional.”

I’ve been waiting for this for a long time, and I know this was one of the selling points of Obama’s campaign platform for quite a number of people. He’s had his share of hits and misses, so the trajectory of this one is something we’re going to have to tract very carefully.