All posts by Tia

Sweet Reflection

While reading “ The Subject of the Slave Trade” by John Wood Sweet it gave me a sense of realization about our current economy and the slave trade. Sweet was very informative in his writing and gave a ton of different perspectives. As well as giving a lot of evidence supporting all of his conclusions and ideas. This helped me understand how slavery worked on a global context and all of the contributing factors playing into this important topic. I liked learning more about Britain’s involvement, and how they tried to spread their empire through beliefs. It is important to question how we have developed as a nation and as active participants in our economy. 

Throughout Britain there was a strong sense of nationalism regarding the belief that they (as a nation) were better than others because of their moral development. They liked to think that their “national character was defined by a unique devotion to liberty, that theirs was an empire of trade, not of dominion” (p.20). I thought this statement was rather interesting. They fully believe that because they banned slavery they were a more developed people. However they still greatly profited off of slavery and all of its economic benefits. By spreading this idea, it also helped spread British nationalism to other countries, giving Britain more power socially. In all of Britain’s efforts, in the end they wanted more power and still wanted to support the slave trade to help them economically. I think it is fascinating to see how a belief or idea can greatly contribute to human rights and justice, and how it will be harnessed to keep from giving more power to that country, such as our reference in class about China and America. 

In “The Subject of the Slave Trade” a particular line stuck with me regarding how even the abolitionist were still inadvertently supporting the slave trade through their consumption. They would still buy sugar, tobacco, and cotton clothes which in effect give power and money to the exact people that they were fighting against. But because it was “out of sight out of mind,” they didn’t know how much they were actually contributing to the slave trade. When we compare this to today’s societal norm of buying things such as clothing. We never really consider how this impacts others. Like the slave trade, when slavery was outlawed, the big slave traders would move somewhere they could still make a profit legally, and still bring all the products back to America to sell. In today’s society, big companies move their factories to less developed countries or ones that don’t have strong labour laws. This is where children, women and men are severely underpaid. They cannot afford a living and the children experience extreme hardships at a very young age. These two situations are very similar. We don’t see this impact when we buy those pants, and how much these huge billion dollar companies are profiting off of us and the underpaid workers. 

I greatly appreciated Sweets’ work. I think it really helped me develop my ideas about the slave trade from multiple different perspectives. I believe that this is how history should be taught. We should learn how to make connections from the past to the present. I think this can teach us a lot about our current society and how a lot of our problems stem from the slave trade.

The 1619 Project

While reading and analyzing the documents given in class, I found myself in a peculiar position. I didn’t know who convinced me more. The 1619 project, published by The New York Times,  is aimed to educate American citizens about the history of America, center around slavery and how it continues to impact our everyday lives. I think this is a wonderful idea considering that very few Americans probably know much about their own history. The 1619 Project was directed by Nikole Hannah-Jones, who seems passionate about her idea and what it entails. However, the project gain criticism regarding its factual evidence and how much slavery contributed in the development of America. The people who criticized the project were historians, concerned that the project was spreading false information, and simultaneously pushing for a Democratic agenda. Stated by Niles Niemuth, “…the 1619 project is a politically motivated falsification of history. Its aim is to create a historical narrative that legitimizes the effort of the Democratic Party to construct an electoral coalition based on the prioritizing of personal ‘identities’” (Niemuth, p.1). Reading both sides of the argument made me question how history should be written to educate citizens, and who should be writing this information. Is there even a thing such as ‘good history’?

For the majority of my academic life with history, I never considered the question if there is good history. History in itselfs is mostly regarded as factual, and when we start to question the author’s motive and position in the social class that’s when our perception of history gets twisted. We can no longer state that this one event happened without numerous witnesses and evidence supporting it, and even so who are the people reporting that event? But we can’t disregard history, because it is important when forming our beliefs, values, and noticing our mistakes. One of the main criticism with The 1619 Project is that it had a very narrow lens concerning slavery, and didn’t mention many outside factors that could have contributed (Wilentz). I think that this criticism is valid, because history is intertwined, and should be taught as such. Personally I think there is no such thing as good history, because to one extent it is all bias and nothing is officially true, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore it. 

The idea and concept of The 1619 Project is fantastic. Every citizen should know their history, so they’ll have more respect for their country and the people around them. I don’t think The 1619 Project is just journalism, however I don’t think it’s history. It’s a little of both, from someone’s bias. It carries strong evidence, but not all the evidence. I think it should be taught in schools to a certain extent, because I don’t think it should be making strong statements about what happened in the past. Simply because we won’t ever know. I do believe that schools should be educating their students about bias, and how one idea of what happened in the past can easily change if there is new evidence found. Either way, I thought this was fantasting and really made me question what we read and consume. 

The Declaration of Independence

The Declaration of Independence is one of the most important and impactful document that forever changed the government in America.

Even with its importance in history, it is extremely boring and predictable, and often contradictory to itself in many ways. Sure, it was step towards more freedom and justice in the government, but the creators of the document were the ones contributing to the problems that we are still trying to resolve in todays society.

“…all men are created equal…”(pg.1) This quote is not longer applicable in todays modern world, for we don’t know this definition of being ‘equal’ or who this quote even applies too. We can assume that when writing this they were not thinking of women, people of colour or any other minorities.  That this quote was only to help the already privileged people of the time, aka white rich men, and the occasional poor white man.

The Declaration of Independence was revolutionary during its time, and should always be remembered as the step we had to take towards a better future. Even so, I think that we can do better now and adjust to our new circumstances.

What Is Democracy?

In the very vague definition of democracy, it is that the people rule. This sounds coherent with the sense that we control our own lives. However, it has never been properly put into practice, nor should we really wish it to be.

Before watching the documentary, I had a positive perception of the word. When I was younger, I was never really exposed to politics, or if I was, it was too boring to fully comprehend.  I have never really felt that the government was against me in any way, so I guess I didn’t believe knowing such things would make an impact in my life. However, the documentary completely changed the way I see how the government operates now.

My current view of the term democracy is complicated. I cannot decide to really support the idea because of its definition. I believe that the people should have a say in government, however there should be a moral ground for everyone in the system. The few questions that already popped up are: is everyone responsible enough to take part? do the citizens actually want to hold responsibility for themselves? and what is this moral ground?  To all of these questions are indistinct  answers. Politics can be a very personal thing, connecting our religious values, gender, ethnic and cultural identities, as these are all important factors is our lives. Having a diverse country with many different backgrounds could seem to be the ‘ideal’ setting for democracy; theoretically everyone can be ‘heard’ or, it can also be the grounds for many conflicts.

In conclusion, democracy is the best system that we’ve been able to create so far, however it is still lacking greatly in giving everyone equal opportunity. For instance, minorities have a hard time being considered and taken into account when it is always the majority that always wins.