End of the Rainbow

In the last few chapters in my History textbook, I see some of the struggles of the major categories of American society, or social stratifications, liberated. Society can be divided up based on class, race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, age, religion, culture, status, and power. (You can probably think of a few more). Numerous incidents in America’s history were motivated by one or more of these socioeconomic divisions.

I AM WOAMN!!

Going into the 1970s, woman had begun to take on a different role. Still the primary caregiver, taking on more of the domestic work than male counterparts, but women started to be more than just that. In the 1960s, women had began to picket and protests, this rolled over into the 1970s. Women went to college more, and studied mathematics, engineering, law and sciences, as opposed to mostly education, English, social service,  and nursing students before. Now, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research,there are more women going to college than men. Women were working more and began to demand equal pay. There is still a gap. Men tend to get paid twenty one percent more, on average,  than equally qualified women doing the same work, but this gap has closed twenty percent since 1970. IMG_2609Before the 1970s, women could not get a credit card, a mortgage loan, birth control, or legal abortion. Women weren’t considered to have the right to refuse their husbands of sex, file for divorce, or report sexual harassment in the workplace. Women gained all of those rights in the 1970s, and went on in the eighties to contribute to the sexual revolution, yet simultaneously became conservative in the work place and in public. Women were done with the bell bottoms and colorful patterns of the seventies, and embraced European attire and designer accessories. Women in the 80s also took more interest in the financial and legal matters of the home, instead of leaving all of it to the husband, as in prior times. In the 1990s, women’s roles in politics began to change. Hilary Clinton took a lot on her plate as the First Lady, and was the first Former First Lady to continue to work a major position in politics after her husband’s term. Hilary Clinton was elected to the Senate in 2001, ran for Democratic Presidential Candidate in 2008, served as Secretary of State (a woman who didn’t want any ole’ secretary job) for four years, and is now running as a Democratic Presidential Candidate for the 2016 election.

The American Woman has come around full force. There are still some gaps, inequalities, and unequal distribution of domestic responsibilities, but a woman in 2015 can do anything she wants to do, with her life, her mind and her body. A woman can  be anybody she wants to be. A woman can be born into any one specific social stratification and die in another.

BLACK POWER!! BROWN POWER!!

Minorities are another social stratification that have banded together to bridge some dangerous gaps. Civil rights acts had been passed in the 1950s and 1960s. In the 1970s enforcement of these acts became important, and more of a priority of our judicial system. Following The Civil Rights Movement, other minorities also exhibited pride in their ethnicity and native culture. It became more common for Americans to identify with their roots of their parents and grandparents homelands, rather than just blending in with the blurred line of being white. Movies and music explored and celebrated this pride. Movies like The Godfather, that chronicled the tale of strong Italian roots and culture, here in the U.S. Music like disco, rap, and hip hop were expressive outlets of African Americans, but also bought many people together, across color lines. Chicanas, Latinas, and Native Americans also proudly celebrated their roots. America started to show signs of the melting pot so many families had come here to be part of. Today, numerous people of diverse backgrounds have the freedom and platforms to honor their culture and the culture of the relatives that lived before them. There are specific months, and holidays, websites and social groups. Clubs and activities can be found on many high school and college campuses based on race, ethnicity, and culture. People of color have began to seek education and careers in math, science, technology, engineering, economics, and politics. People of all racial backgrounds are elected to political positions now. So much so, that for the last seven years, The United States of America has had its first black President in office. Minorities too, now live in a country where they can be born into any one socioeconomic classification, and die in another.

What Part of my History Book Did You Live Through?

 

I will be twenty-nine in a few weeks. In my (almost) twenty-nine years, I have been through a lot. More than many of my peers, and more than most of the friends I’ve had since childhood. All that I have been through has not broken me, I like to think I have gained the immunity needed to fight off any other incidents that may invade my healthy, joyful life. I cannot help but wonder what if everyone in my generation experienced the heartache and pain I experienced; What if every person in my generation jumped hurdles to get to where they are today? Would we be stronger? Would we appreciate life more, and all that comes along with it? How would we function as a society? Lets explore that, but instead of focusing on the last twenty-nine years, let’s explore society between 1940 and 1969.

WAR

  • In the 1940s, the world was in war AGAIN! America had not technically joined, but because we disapproved fascism, Franklin Roosevelt was indirectly waging war on Germany. We eventually entered the war (officially), after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, in December 1941. One of the biggest tragedies of World War II, if you can single out any parts of it as more tragic than others, were the concentration camps. When I saw the pictures and videos in History class, I was absolutely disgusted. And the veterans’ recollections of what they witnessed when they got to the camps were just sad. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum offers many articles, picIMG_2607tures, videos, and even a couple oral accounts from survivors. Germany and Japan eventually lost to the United States, the Soviet Union, and Great Britain in 1945, with the UNITED STATES and the SOVIET UNION coming out on top as the superpowers.
  • The relationship between America and the Soviet was one of frenemies, during the war, and each having great fear and suspicion of the other superpower transitioned us from one war to another. According to our textbook, Volume 2 of Becoming America, America believed free trade and, more importantly, democratic free elections would rebuild and stabilize the world after World War II. Soviet Union leader, Joseph Stalin, knew Adolph Hitler and the Nazis gained their power through free elections, so he really only kept his agreement about holding free elections places where communism was the winner by default. Former Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, came to the U.S. and warned of America making the same mistakes with the Soviet that Britain had with Germany. The bloodshed and lives lost still fresh on everybody’s minds, paired with Americans having a hard time distinguishing Stalin’s totalitarian plans to protect Eastern Europe from hostility from Hitler’s dictatorship, it was easy for President Truman and his State Department to exaggerate the threat and scare Congress into action. The Cold War was not just open warfare, it was an economic, political, military, cultural, and even psychological hostility between America and its rivalry, communist Soviet Union, that lasted approximately 45 years! As part of the attempt to contain communism American soldiers were involved in, and being drafted for, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. The Soviet Union ran out of money and collapsed and Americans won the very long battle for supremacy.

So how did people react to all this war? Well many of the issues originated in Europe, that includes World War I also, so overall the feeling among citizens was we shouldn’t be involved in Europe’s problems. Obviously the attack on Pearl Harbor completely changed that attitude.  The response to that became similar of a fight or flight response in the human body, and we chose to fight. We were very happy, for a while, and the American population boomed with babies. After WWII ended, we were involved in more social conflicts (as opposed to physical threats) that lead to war (or we voluntarily entered war because we thought our way was better or were afraid of how communist chose to do things) and by the 1960s many American young adults were against war and upset about the young men being drafted to risk their lives.

RACE

Even with all this war going on, blacks were limited in joining the fight. And of those who survived and made it back home, a very small portion were equally rewarded as veterans. For instance, in 1947, when Mississippi offered 3,000 federal mortgage loans to veterans, less than half of one percent were given to black veterans; Two of the three thousand to be exact. According to PBS, approximately 650,000 African Americans were serving in the military by 1945. Black soldiers were treated unequally and unfair, although they risked their lives just the same. Officials and soldiers were apprehensive to use African Americans in the armed forces, and it wasn’t until after World War II ended was the United States military desegregated. This was partly due to the successful hard work put in by units such as the Tuskegee Airmen.

Back on familiar territory, African Americans were fighting the all too familiar war on racism. The Civil Rights Movement, most prominent from the mid 1950s to late 1960s, was the fight against oppression and segregation  based on racism and prejudice. Blacks were standing up for equal access to voting, education, employment, healthcare, physical security, and law protection. Buses, train cars, bathrooms, restaurants, water fountains, movie theaters, and ball games were among the many everyday places where blacks were either separated or banned altogether. Some of these habits, rules, and laws had been around for so long, many white people truly thought they were biologically necessary for their well being, rather than made up and enforced by society. An example would be the misconception that black people carried different diseases and health issues, and therefore were unsafe to share bathrooms with. The truth was separate bathrooms was just an idea white people had been taught generation after generation. 

Needless to say, many courageous people risked, and sometimes lost, everything, including their lives for the cause. Some have literally went down in history like Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcom X, Jackie Robinson. Some we will never even know about.

 

THE 1950s

The fifties are remembered as this great time in America when it was all good. Everybody had money, worked hard for it, was happy, and family was everything. This is not all true. Many

Americans were still living in poverty, and minorities had very deep struggles. Women were still not seen as equals, and there was still a lot of military fighting. But let’s take a quick look at why this nostalgia exist when people think about the 1950s.

NO, not everybody had money but overall, Americans were living better, and unemployment rate was low. There was a long stretch of economic growth that had started in 1948 and lasted until the mid 1970s. Many employees received four weeks of paid vacation, which gave them time with their family, made them happier and harder working, and gave them an extra opportunity to pump money back into the economy as traveling consumers. Three radio networks

became huge television networks that are still around today, NBC, ABC, and CBS. TV became a family pass time. Families watched happy-go-lucky shows ab

out nuclear families living in the suburbs. Happy-go-lucky families moved to the suburbs. These suburban families purchased spacious, comfortable automobiles, in which they could go to drive in movies and restaurants. Kitchen appliances and frozen and canned dinners gave housewives more free time to spend with their husbands and children and to shop and consume. Teenagers emerged for the first time. Teenagers were not small adults forced into the work place anymore. They were encouraged to stay in school, but were not children and became the center of popular culture. The beginning of integration, paired with the expression of adolescence, sexuality, and free musical expression created an almost surreal happiness. 

THE 1960s

All the expression and the first ever teenagers becoming adults rolled right on over to the sixties; As did racial tension and protesting, and war. A huge part of the overall memory of the sixties is the anti-war movement. That was influenced by people wanting to feel in control of their destiny, rather than being drafted, lack of justification for the U.S. being involved in foreign affairs, and by drugs and sex! People were encouraged to explore their minds, while under the influence of opioids. Sex and sexuality were more openly and liberally

explored. Women steered away from domestication really for the first time. So, many people were high and f

reely sexually active. Do I need to say more?

If you know an older person, a minority that has lived long enough to remember the civil rights movement, a veteran of the armed forces, or a woman who has lived long enough to remember when a woman’s place was literally in the kitchen, and they seem to be stronger, wiser, content, fulfilled, happier, just better

than many others you may know, take the time to think about what part of your history book they may have been through to get to where they are today.

The Society of My Great Grandparents (1914-1945)

My great grandparents were born at the beginning of the twentieth century, between 1901 to 1905. In looking at this specific time in American history, I decided to put my sociology glasses on and reflect on the society they lived in, rather than the history they were a part of. So many big things happened within three decades. America ultimately joined The Great War (which was later termed World War 1),women gained the right to vote,there was The Jazz Age & The Roaring 20s, alcohol was Prohibited!, and allowed again, mobsters became a new trend, we experienced The Great Depression, and America was forced into a Good War (which was later termed World War 2). All of this highlights some of the most memorable, and arguably important, events in American history. Yet for my great grandparents, and others born in the late 1800s and early 1900s, this wasn’t history, it was their life, part of society. Much like those of us who watched the news as a second plane hit the Twin Towers in 2001, we weren’t conscious of the historical content, yet it is now covered in our children social studies and history books.

imageThe basis on which we, as a country, entered World War 1 was noble. We did not initially get involved in the mess Europe had going on. We sat back and used our ethnocentric mindset to judge them, European white men, for turning against each other. I suppose that we had come so far from the hostilities that caused America to separate into two armies and kill well over a half million men. Nevertheless, President Woodrow Wilson was determined for America to remain in neutral in a fight that had nothing to do with us, and was too far across the ocean to effect us. He is quoted in Becoming America Volume 2 as saying “There is such a thing as a nation being so right that it does not need to convince others by force that it is right.” America eventually entered the war because Germany was sinking ships, one which had 129 American passengers, and attempting to form an alliance with Mexico to oppose us. We went to war in 1917 to protect our people and our land. Nobility at its finest. During the war, Americans needed money

imageand food for the troops, and life had to go on back at home. Society does not just stop because one person dies, or hundreds, or even thousands. That is an example of our relevance to society as a whole, it is almost nonexistent; Yet what we do changes society, and everything about our society changes us. People were encouraged to eat less and start gardens, so there was more food, especially meat, being sent to the troops. Women took on all kinds of jobs that were previously designated for men. They held clerical and office positions, and even took on industrial factory jobs. Now, as much the American military claimed to physically need EVERY SINGLE young, healthy male, social control still dictated the mores that had been set in place regarding African Americans. Black men were limited in the positions they could serve in the Navy and Coast Guard, they could not serve in the Marines at all, and there was an overall maximum quota for blacks. Even in a time of great physiological need for millions of people, the social rules took priority.

So America joined in on the winning side, with Britain, France, and Russia. Germany lost, exactly 5 years after the death that launched a world war, the Treaty of Versailles was signed, with Germany accepting responsibility. That is one thing that is very different between my great grandfather’s world and mine. The “bad” people are country was against did not feel they were wrong. Terrorist against America today are often eager to claim responsibility for their wrongdoing, pretty much to taunt and challenge us. After the war Americans were happy. Now I cannot testify to the individual happiness of American citizens, but looking at society as a whole, the twenties seem like an era I wouldn’t mind time traveling to. As a result of the hard work and support women provided during wartime, and possibly all the women that were holding rallies and campaigns for about one hundred years, they (socially) earned the right to vote. The Roaring 20s were a decade filled with people just enjoying life. Consumerism was now deemed acceptable by society. People shopped and purchased all kinds of stuff. Going to huge ball stadiums was a folkway. Celebrities symbolized happiness, and served more of a purpose than just the job title they were famous for. For example Babe Ruth was now known for more than just playing baseball. This sounds a lot like my surroundings now. Athletes and their endorsements took on new meanings in the 1990s, as well as the obsession with celebrities in general since technology and mass media has flourished this millennium.

imageFlappers were young women who decided to express themselves and their sexuality in ways they were almost taboo to their parents and grandparents. For some reason since so many women wore short hair cuts, and shorter dresses that clung to their boyish shaped bodies, it was just a norm. Women smoking in public was accepted, as well as young single women living in their own apartments and going out without a chaperone. image Another change was the movement of Jazz. This music, originating in St. Louis by African Americans, changed the nation and entertainment. It crossed color lines and the oceans, as black soldiers had began to share this style of music with Europeans while overseas during the war. People gathered by their radios to dance to music, instead of playing their own instruments. Everything about this screams rap music in the 1990s, and its snowball effect thereafter.

One thing many Americans were not so happy about was The Prohibition that lasted 1920-1933. I looked and looked, but could not find any health concerns as the basis for getting rid of alcohol. Reasons listed have included alcohol lead to domestic violence and poor work habits, and the fact that many cultures of various immigrant communities incorporated one liquor or another as part of their unity. What I did find was advertisement for milk as a healthy option, after alcohol was prohibited. Again, the basis and outcomes were socially generated, not biologically necessary or driven.

America went through a time period known as The Great Depression, some of which can be attributed to social consumerism and rumors (yes RUMORS), which played a part in the single largest one-day loss in American stock market history on Tuesday, October 29, 1929. Many people lost their life savings. This information is detailed in Becoming America Volume 2. The Great Depression was a long, deep, economical situation until America entered the second world war. So now if we entered WWI with great noble intentions, then we went back into war with double that amount of nobility right? Wrong. The men and women that have served our country over the years have been noble and brave. But the information that went into deciding if what we would do and why were socially motivated. To the untrained eye it would seem America was forced into the war by the attack on December 7, 1941 in Pearl Harbor right? Wrong again. On the surface that is when we officially entered the war, and Americans again felt this was a European problem we should stay out of. Franklin D. Roosevelt even promised he would not “send American boys into any foreign wars.”, but unofficially he had been planning and indirectly waging war on Germany for two years. Not because Germany had murdered 129 people again, but simply because the American ethnocentrism had decided Fascism was not good. Fascism in other countries was not effecting the United States, but we had already went to war against it. On September 2, 1945 Americans celebrated the end of World War 2, and Winston Churchill is quoted as saying America was now at “the summit of the world”. Our American society celebrated with a similar patriotism when Osama Bin Laden was pronounced dead on May 1, 2011.



American History (Sociology)

History is the past Sociology and Sociology is the current History. Being back in school is a privilege, and I am fascinated by the information being offered to me. One of the things I find most interesting is how the different subjects and sciences intertwine and overlap. When I read the above statement, which was said to have been a remark by a former president of the American Sociological Association Professor G.E. Howard, I thought to myself “Wow, how can it be explained any better?” Well, I’m going to try.Image result for civil war over

First let’s break down that big word sociology. It means the study of EVERYTHING that has to do with humans. Sociology is a science that looks at how people interact, how their environment influences them, culture, values, morals, trends, cliques, language, how institutions influence people, how people deal with stress around them, how people feel the need to fit in, how people think they are very unique (although often influenced by society just like many many people around them)… I could go on but I think you get my point.

So much happened in America between the end of the Civil War and 1914, and most, if not all, of it was based on people’s social needs and wants. in 1865 the western region of America was just land. It held no value to the average man. The West was not a part of American society. The west expansion and industrialization was simply to prevent the Confederacy from expanding. So you are telling me that us Americans took over half this country just so other people couldn’t get to it first? Yes, just like my four year old nephew will run SUPER fast so that none of the bigger kids can beat him up the stairs and “win” the imaginary unspoken prize. We see this everyday, people are consumed with “getting ahead” of the imaginary finish lines society has placed on us, that will do stuff to other people to reduce their chances of winning, BUT THEY AREN’T IN COMPETITION WITH US!

Freed slaves were promised 40 acres per family, the African American Registry goes into more detail, but to make it short, Andrew Johnson redistributed the land back to the former slave owners. It was not because the southerners who believed people were property were his best friends and he cared about their best interests. It was because 1. They met his demands be swearing allegiance to the union and 2. He just happened to dislike blacks more than he disliked The Confederates. Hhmmm Politics and the (subjective) lesser of two evils. Its almost hard for me to NOT say something sarcastic. Instead, I will ask a question. Can you think of at least one instance where people make political decisions based on what/who they believe to be the lesser of two evils? Such a huge historical and legal decision was left up to a man and his opinion of two broad groups of people. A historical and legal decision was left up to how this specific man was influenced by his personal interactions, or lack thereof, with two broad groups of people.

The railways were one of the biggest changes of American history, PERIOD. The railways changed everything about being in this country. Travel, time, trade, industrialization, farming, food production, media, clothing production. Everything and everybody could move across and throughout the country at a speed previously unheard of. Railways were not essential to survival, but were created with the understanding they were going to change life as we knew it. Much like these little devices everybody carries around in their pockets and purses. Cell phones are not, contrary to popular belief, necessary for survival, but they changed life as we knew it. My cell phone is my watch, my datebook, I can use it to find a nearby Uber, order food, keep up with local, national, and international news. The trains in the late nineteenth century are our twenty first century cell phones. They are such a big part of society we think of them as a natural part of history.

Image result for railways 1800s transcontinental

Image result for anti women's suffrageAnd the oh so controversial voting rights, of blacks, women, and even immigrants. Why did people have a problem with blacks and/or women voting? Was it because black men were so biologically contrast from white men that they would run the country down into the ground? NO, it was because SOCIETY had bred the ideas of how uncivilized and educated black men were. Yes people genuinely believed black men had the potential to destroy the honor of America, but this was a social issue. Same with Women’s Suffrage. The idea that politics was a dirty, dishonest, unfair game that women needed to be protected from. Why would women need to be protected from politics you ask. Well because women were clean, gentle, stable, happy people that kept perfect home environments and kept their men and children happy. THAT’S IT! That is all they were capable of. Again, a social reality of the late 1800s and early 1900s, not biological one.

In closing, everything (perhaps I am exaggerating a tad bit) Americans did that went down as History were based around social issues, creating by humans and institutions, not by natural biology.