discrimination history

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January 15th 1929: Martin Luther King Jr. born

On this day in 1929, the future civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was born in Atlanta, Georgia. Born as Martin King, he and his father changed their names in honour of Protestant reformer Martin Luther. King entered the ministry in his twenties and first came to national attention for his leadership of the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955. This event is considered by many to be the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement, which saw a national struggle to end discrimination against African-Americans. King was one of many leaders, but became the face of the movement for his nonviolent tactics and powerful oratory. In 1963, during the March on Washington, King delivered the crowning speech of the movement - the ‘I have a dream’ speech. Beyond his role in combating racial inequality, King also focused on tackling poverty and advocating peace, especially during the Vietnam War. On April 4th 1968, King was shot and killed by James Earl Ray in Memphis, Tennessee. He lived to see the legislative achievements of the movement - the 1964 Civil Rights Act and 1965 Voting Rights Act - but tragically was unable to continue the push for full equality. The movement King set in motion continues to be fought today; the United States is still not a completely equal society and systemic discrimination persists. However, thanks to Martin Luther King, America is closer to fulfilling King’s dream of a truly free and equal society. Since 1986, a national Martin Luther King Day is celebrated on the third Monday in January.

Today would have been his 88th birthday

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February 11th 1990: Mandela released

On this day in 1990, the South African activist and politician Nelson Mandela was released from prison. Mandela had spent twenty-seven years in prison for his role as an anti-apartheid activist at the head of Umkhonto we Sizwe, which translates as Spear of the Nation. The controversial organisation served as the militant armed wing of the African National Congress political party, born out of a frustration among anti-apartheid activists that their non-violence was met with brutality by white authorities against black citizens. Mandela was arrested in 1962 and sentenced to life in prison, during which time he was largely condemned as a terrorist by Western nations. He served most of his twenty-seven years on Robben Island, then Victor Verster Prison near Cape Town, and during his imprisonment his reputation grew as a significant black leader both in South Africa and internationally. Mandela was finally freed after the ban on the ANC was lifted by the apartheid government. Upon his release, Mandela led the ANC in the successful negotiations with President F.W. de Klerk to end apartheid, and was overwhelmingly elected President of South Africa in the first multi-racial elections in 1994, serving until 1999. In 2013, Nelson Mandela died aged 95 and has been mourned around the world as a hero who fought for freedom in South Africa, and as a symbol of resistance for oppressed peoples everywhere.

“Our march to freedom is irreversible. We must not allow fear to stand in our way.”

npr.org
California Restaurants Launch Nation's First Transgender Jobs Program
The unemployment rate for transgender people is double that of the general population. A new program aims to change that. It's all because of a trans woman who's employed trans people for years.

On August 28, 1963, American civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his infamous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C., in which he states: “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.”

Today, as we honor Dr. King, let us take a moment to reflect upon the contents of this very speech, the progress we’ve made since 1963, and the work we’ve yet to do to end racial discrimination across the globe. The full-length speech can be read here.

From the TED-Ed Lesson How to use rhetoric to get what you want - Camille A. Langston

Animation by TOGETHER

This transgender boy was kicked out of his Cub Scouts pack.

8-year-old Joe Maldonado had been part of the club for a month.

His family says other children didn’t mind, but some parents complained.

Joe says he misses his friends, games and science projects.

Joe’s mother wants an apology, but the Boy Scouts of America instead pointed to their policies.

The Boy Scouts has a long history of discrimination: for decades it allowed local chapters to exclude black Scouts.

The Boy Scouts only recently lifted the ban on gay Scouts, but still lacks a formal policy on transgender Scouts.

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Michelle King of the L.A. Unified School District, released a statement saying: 

“L.A. Unified is committed to providing a safe, welcoming, nurturing and secure learning environment for our students. All employees are expected to treat students with respect. The District takes this matter seriously, is investigating it and will take appropriate administrative measures.”

Three other schools stating that their children also received the same math homework.

During Black History Month in 2017.. A second grade teacher, thinks it would be cool to ask students to figure out a math problem involving slaves picking cotton.. Here’s a math problem for that teacher - how many boxes will this teacher need to pack their belongings after being fired?

The Science of Skin Color

When ultraviolet sunlight hits our skin, it affects each of us a little differently. Depending on skin color, it will take only minutes of exposure to turn one person beetroot-pink, while another requires hours to experience the slightest change. So what’s to account for that difference and how did our skin come to take on so many different hues to begin with? Whatever the color, our skin tells an epic tale of human intrepidness and adaptability, revealing its variance to be a function of biology. It all centers around melanin, the pigment that gives skin and hair its color.

The type and amount of melanin in your skin determines whether you’ll be more or less protected from the sun. This comes down to the skin’s response as sunlight strikes it. Over the course of generations, humans living at the Sun-saturated latitudes in Africa adapted to have a higher melanin production threshold and more eumelanin, giving skin a darker tone. This built-in sun shield helped protect them from melanoma, likely making them evolutionarily fitter and capable of passing this useful trait on to new generations. 

But soon, some of our Sun-adapted ancestors migrated northward out of the tropical zone, spreading far and wide across the Earth. The further north they traveled, the less direct sunshine they saw. This was a problem because although UV light can damage skin, it also has an important parallel benefit. UV helps our bodies produce vitamin D, an ingredient that strengthens bones and lets us absorb vital minerals, like calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphate, and zinc. Without it, humans experience serious fatigue and weakened bones that can cause a condition known as rickets. For humans whose dark skin effectively blocked whatever sunlight there was, vitamin D deficiency would have posed a serious threat in the north. But some of them happened to produce less melanin. They were exposed to small enough amounts of light that melanoma was less likely, and their lighter skin better absorbed the UV light. So they benefited from vitamin D, developed strong bones, and survived well enough to produce healthy offspring.

Over many generations of selection, skin color in those regions gradually lightened. As a result of our ancestor’s adaptability, today the planet is full of people with a vast palate of skin colors, typically, darker eumelanin-rich skin in the hot, sunny band around the Equator, and increasingly lighter pheomelanin-rich skin shades fanning outwards as the sunshine dwindles. Therefore, skin color is little more than an adaptive trait for living on a rock that orbits the Sun. It may absorb light, but it certainly does not reflect character.

From the TED-Ed Lesson The science of skin color - Angela Koine Flynn

Animation by Tomás Pichardo-Espaillat