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SAGES SEMINAR ESSAY PRIZES 2020-2021 SAGES & THE WRITING PROGRAM AT CWRU
The SAGES First and University Seminar Prizes highlight the best student writing produced in SAGES seminars each semester. Seminar leaders nominate student essays at the end of each course. These essays are reviewed by a committee of SAGES Teaching Fellows, graduate students, and SAGES administrators, who select several essays to recognize. The Writing Program works with the prize winners to prepare the essays for publication, and they are recognized annually at the Writing Program Awards. These essays provide a glimpse into the rich array of genres and texts that SAGES students create across many disciplines as they move through the SAGES sequence.
This booklet contains the following prize-winning essays.
SAGES First Seminar Essays (from Spring/Fall 2020) "Music and Négritude: The Compromises of Louis Armstrong and Josephine Baker in Postcolonial France" By Weillin Feng from FSSO 185C: Music and Cultural Anxiety in the Twentieth Century (Seminar Leader: Brian MacGilvray) Feng’s essay provides a look back into the past through the lens of the present to inform our future. Exploring the performances and perceptions of famed African-Americans Armstrong and Baker after World War I, this essay delves into colonialism and racism as concepts that both construct and are constructed by societies. Through adept use of source material and synthesis of various accounts from the time period, the essay provides a rich and timely exploration of the question, were these two artists “ethically justified in their complicity with the racism of the French jazz scene?”
"Bicycle Shop Proposal" By Camilla Niles-Steger from FSSO 181: Bicycles: Technology and Everyday Life (Seminar Leader: Eric Chilton) Niles-Steger confronts a relevant and important issue on the CWRU campus--the lack of infrastructure to support bicycle use, and then works through the logistics of solving that problem. Drawing on interviews with campus officials and CWRU students, as well as a variety of data sets to demonstrate the problem and the solution, Niles-Steger offers a compelling proposal for a practical and feasible solution to the problem in her argument for a student-run bicycle shop. This essay offers an example of how personal experience, data- and humandriven research, and concern for one’s community can produce a real world solution for the benefit of everyone on campus.
"The Uncanny in Surrealist Art" By Madison Pugh from FSSY 185O Encountering the Uncanny (Seminar Leader: James Newlin) Pugh’s essay applies the concept of the uncanny, the feeling of eeriness that arises from something being other than expected, to the surrealist paintings of Rene Magritte. The strength of her argument lies in the exploration of the theoretical concept through specific and detailed descriptions of various pieces of art, demonstrating how Magritte’s work produces a sense of the uncanny through his play with the idea of “the double.” This essay provides a lovely example of an argument designed to show a reader how an abstract idea manifests in art, and how a student can make use of concepts as a lens to see and understand objects in the world anew.
SAGES University Seminar Essays (from Academic Year 2020-2021) “Alphabet Soup: Why Making STEM into STREAM Will Not Fix the Imbalance in Education” By Giuliana Conte from USNA 289: The Mind’s Essential Tension (Seminar Leader: Anthony Jack) In this essay, Conte makes a convincing case for the role of the arts and humanities by critiquing the current emphasis on STEM in American primary and secondary education. One of the strengths of this essay is Conte’s efforts to show how current debates about STEM education—including the alleged shortage of STEM workers—are historically situated and closely tied to rhetoric surrounding national defense. This paper also illustrates how student writers can analyze terminology and definitions (e.g. what is a “STEM worker”?) to expose flawed logic undergirding policy decisions.
“Fact or Fable: The Inaccurate Representation of Female Victims and Perpetrators in Auschwitz in Out of the Ashes” By Annabella DeBernardo from USSY 290G: Women and Warfare: Reality vs. Representation (Seminar Leader: Margaret Richardson) This research essay tackles incredibly difficult subject matter— women’s lives and survival tactics in Auschwitz, particularly as related to reproduction and obstetrics—through careful and sophisticated analysis of Dr. Gisela Perl’s memoir I was a doctor in Auschwitz and its subsequent film adaptation, Out of the Ashes. DeBernardo’s paper is an excellent example of
close reading and film analysis, as well as the smooth integration of secondary research, which result in a persuasive and original argument concerning the reductive popular media portrayals of female Holocaust victims.
“Cleveland: Confronting Rail Transportation Issues in a Rust Belt City” By James FitzGibbon from USNA 287J: Transportation in American Life (Seminar Leader: Howard Maier) This essay offers a thoughtful exploration of the history and economics of rail transportation in the Cleveland area. FitzGibbon’s thorough research involved not only textual sources, but also interviews with two experts in the field. He is adept in using these various sources to build his own argument. The project unfolds as a response to the question of whether Cleveland should expand its light rail system, and answers that question through several lenses--historic, economic, social-- in order to make a well-reasoned and compelling claim about the future of Cleveland’s public transportation.
“The Image of Black Masculinity as Portrayed in Friday Black” By Anika Krishna from USSY 291B: Dystopian Science Fiction (Seminar Leader: Gabrielle Parkin) This essay deftly navigates the complexities of black male identity within contemporary American society as portrayed in Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s 2018 short story collection Friday Black. Krishna connects her close reading of two stories in the collection to secondary research on such topics as black masculinity, code-switching, and racial profiling to show how Adjei-Brenyah uses the tropes of dystopian fiction and “Hyperbole based on truth [to blur] the lines between fiction and reality” in a way that makes the experience of racism viscerally apparent to the reader. This essay is a strong example of literary analysis and sensitively dealing with emotionally- and politically-charged topics.
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PHOTO BY THOUGHT CATALOG ON UNSPLASH
Music and Négritude: The Compromises of Louis Armstrong and Josephine Baker in Postcolonial France by Weillin Feng
With the end of World War I came an influx of Americans and colonial subjects of African descent into metropolitan France. Simultaneously, modernist and surrealist artists were exploring African aesthetics, popularizing African primitivism and exoticism. The conflation of African primitivism with all people of color led white elites to patronize black-owned jazz clubs in search of the exotic and primitive in the music, dances, and performers. Meanwhile, proponents of Négritude, a literary movement among the francophone African diaspora, promoted jazz as a symbol of pan-African culture and unity. Négritude poets relied heavily on irony to portray social injustices and to mock white supremacy. As the respective faces of jazz dance and music in France, Josephine Baker and Louis Armstrong exploited the primitivism sought by white audiences to become mainstream icons and used the poetic irony of Négritude to justify their seeming reinforcement of racist stereotypes. Furthermore, Armstrong used his fame to lead by pragmatic example, while Baker’s media appearances prompted discussions of racialist theories, black culture, and the ethics of the civilizing mission championed by the French colonial empire. Were Armstrong and Baker ethically justified in their complicity with the racism of the French jazz scene? The leading jazz critic in interwar Paris was Hugues Panassié, founder of the Hot Club de France and author of Le Jazz Hot, a detailed history and analysis of jazz with a preface by Louis Armstrong that was widely lauded as the first serious analysis of jazz. In it, Panassié outlines the primitivist presumptions of white biological and cultural superiority that underpin his jazz
analysis.1 In his eyes, while Europe grew increasingly commercialized, industrialized, and dehumanized, black people remained close to their primitive African origins. Creating a dichotomy between white and black, intelligence and passion, and rationality and spirituality, Panassié believed black jazz musicians could emotionally and spiritually charge their performances in a way that whites could not.2 Furthermore, he believed this was a result of their lesser intellect and that through education, they would lose this ability.3 Depictions of eroticized African women entered the French mainstream through novels like Batouala, famous for its provocatively lewd “danse de l’amour.” Sexual primitivism found further credence in the photographs of ethnographic expeditions like La Croisière noire. 4 Thus, Panassié and the majority of white patrons of French jazz clubs regarded people of color as uninhibited artistically and sexually and therefore as a means for whites to sublimate socially unacceptable desires.5 The French “vogue nègre” wanted circus attractions, not philosophers. Caroline Dudley Reagan, the organizer of La Revue Nègre, exploited the Parisian infatuation with women of color by casting Josephine Baker and Joé Alex to play nude tribal dancers adorned only in feathers. Baker herself had already made extensive use of black stereotypes in her performances; earlier in 1925 she had played “Topsy Anna,” a clumsy buffoon in oversized shoes who dances the Charleston.6 The next year, she would replace the feathers
Jeremy F. Lane, Jazz and Machine-Age Imperialism: Music, "Race," and Intellectuals in France, 1918-1945 (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2013), 92. 2 Hugues Pannasié, “About Hot Music.” Hot Jazz: The Guide to Swing Music. New York, M. Witmark & Sons, , 26-7. 3 Lane, Jazz and Machine-Age Imperialism, 92. 4 Iris Schmeisser, “’Un Saxophone En Mouvement’?: Josephine Baker and the Primitivist Reception of Jazz in Paris in the 1920s.” In Cross the Water Blues: African American Music in Europe, ed. Neil A. Wynn Neil (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2007), 115. 5 Lane, Jazz and Machine-Age Imperialism, 66. 6 Schmeisser, “’Un Saxophone En Mouvement’,” 114.
with bananas to further cultivate the image of an exotic African dancer.7 Similarly, Louis Armstrong played a stereotypical uneducated black artist; his preface to Panassié’s Le Jazz Hot ends with “writing articles, making speeches or anything other than swinging the good ol’ Trumpet, I am really lost!”8 In 1932, he starred in a short film called Rhapsody in Black and Blue, in which he appears dressed in leopard pelts and obeys orders with comic enthusiasm.9 These stereotypes were adopted out of perceived necessity: most patrons of jazz in France were white, and their primitivist tastes decided which artists would succeed and which would not.10 The mechanized devastation of the First World War had led to mass disillusionment with industrial Europe, and the surrealist and cubist depictions of Africa showed a purer, simpler world.11 Thus, black artists seemingly found themselves forced to choose between financial ruin and moral compromise, and while they may have had ulterior motives for adopting racist stereotypes, the fact remains that those who succeeded did so by normalizing and even popularizing harmful racial caricatures. Opposite the white jazz elites of Paris were the proponents of Négritude, a philosophical movement aiming to reject assimilation and celebrate pan-African black culture. French colonial policy focused on civilizing its subjects, setting French culture as the standard. However, when colonial intellectuals abandoned their cultures in favor of the French, they found the government unwilling to grant greater autonomy or respect.12 Disillusioned with the French, authors such as
Schmeisser, “Un Saxophone En Mouvement,” 117. Pannasié, Hugues. “A Word from Louis Armstrong.” Hot Jazz: The Guide to Swing Music. New York, M. Witmark & Sons, , xi. 9 Lane, Jazz and Machine-Age Imperialism, 82. 10 Schmeisser, “Un Saxophone En Mouvement,” 111. 11 Lane, Jazz and Machine-Age Imperialism, 92. 12 Jennifer Anne Boittin, "Josephine Baker: Colonial Woman." In Colonial Metropolis: The Urban Grounds of AntiImperialism and Feminism in Interwar Paris (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2010), 6. 8
Léon Damas and Léonard Senghor turned to jazz improvisation as a symbol of a transnational black culture that could rival the French. Damas claimed that the rhythms fundamental to jazz were inherently and inextricably African.13 According to Senghor, those improvised rhythms came from nature, which the written tradition of classical European music had stifled.14 In the black-owned jazz clubs of Paris, intellectuals from across the African diaspora gathered to discuss philosophy and policy.15 The immense popularity of jazz among white audiences became a point of pride for many in the black intelligentsia as a reversal of European colonialism and supposed white superiority.16 Furthermore, Négritude thought posited that the use of stereotypes to achieve that fame was justified. According to Damas, the adoption of racist stereotypes was a way to assert a black identity despite mainstream racism. 17 Any black viewers of Rhapsody in Black and Blue, for instance, recognized that Louis Armstrong’s ridiculous performance was in fact a mockery of the white creators and consumers who were so obstinate in casting him as a buffoon.18 In a similar way, Josephine Baker’s mix of stereotypical tribal African and antebellum South aesthetics created a unique style that, while primitivist on the surface, defied the expectations of its white sponsors and patrons and brought her global fame.19 In the face of primitivist expectations, artists of color still managed to express black solidarity and subvert racial stereotypes.
Lane, Jazz and Machine-Age Imperialism, 77. Lane, Jazz and Machine-Age Imperialism, 115. 15 Lane, Jazz and Machine-Age Imperialism, 65. 16 Schmeisser, “Un Saxophone En Mouvement,” 119-20. 17 Lane, Jazz and Machine-Age Imperialism, 81. 18 Lane, Jazz and Machine-Age Imperialism, 84-5. 19 Schmeisser, “Un Saxophone En Mouvement,” 114-5. 14
While complicit media can covertly spread a subversive message to some in the black community, its literal meaning is still problematic.20 The popularity of Baker’s signature “danse sauvage” spread caricatures of nude dancing women of color globally, normalizing the presumed European racial and cultural superiority that underlies primitivism and exoticism. Her popularity also further encouraged the commodification and appropriation of African art by Europeans.21 Armstrong, meanwhile, was condemned by members of the black community for Uncle Tomming, evidenced by his willingness to act the stereotypical clown in public. The propagation of these stereotypes arguably reinforced racist stereotypes and inhibited the Négritude movement from developing a respected black intelligentsia.22 The adoption of racist stereotypes was a necessary evil, as only complicit media could have any real penetration into society, both black and white. Paul Robeson, an African American actor, singer, and athlete of the same era, steadfastly refused to compromise his image or quietly abide by racist policies.23 At one Kansas City concert, the majority of his white audience left the theater after he interrupted his performance to denounce the segregation of the audience.24 Unlike the nonconfrontational Armstrong and Baker, Robeson’s staunch opposition to white racism was taken as an attack on white society, and thus he was harassed by both the government and his white audiences, which took a significant toll on his mental health.25 By antagonizing
Lane, Jazz and Machine-Age Imperialism, 86. Schmeisser, “Un Saxophone En Mouvement,” 111. 22 Lane, Jazz and Machine-Age Imperialism, 86. 23 Prosper Godonoo, "Paul Robeson: Honor and the Politics of Dignity," in Reconstructing Fame: Sport, Race, and Evolving Reputations, ed. David C. Ogden and Joel Nathan Rosen ( Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2008), 48. 24 Hersch, Charles. "Poisoning Their Coffee: Louis Armstrong and Civil Rights." Polity 34, no. 3 (2002): 390. 25 Godonoo, “Paul Robeson,” 63. 21
white society, his protests did not persist in the white cultural sphere and made little immediate impact on structural racism.26 Accusations that Armstrong’s cheery attitude and lighthearted, apolitical approach to fame were merely a persona meant to exploit white audiences’ expectations fail to grasp his purpose, which was to teach other African Americans how to survive in a deeply prejudiced society. 27 In his memoirs, Armstrong describes how his childhood in New Orleans taught him from a young age that open revolt against white injustices led to racial violence, not social change. 28 Thus, he not only adopted a nonthreatening stage presence, but rather an entire personality based on avoiding confrontation. Dizzy Gillespie, who had criticized Armstrong’s act, stated later, “I began to recognize what I had considered [Armstrong’s] grinning in the face of racism as his refusal to let anything, even anger about racism, steal the joy from his life.” 29 Seeing the futility of resistance from his childhood, Armstrong told his bandmates to be proud of being black and to take joy in their lives, no matter what prejudices they faced. 30 But being happy with life did not mean being content, and Armstrong’s continuous rebellion took more subtle forms than Robeson’s. 31 His greatest inspiration was Bill Robinson, a tap dancer who performed for segregated white audiences but refused to wear black face or play a minstrel character in his shows. 32 Armstrong took ownership of the songs he performed by injecting his own experience into them. He related “Mack the Knife,” originally written in 1928
Hersch, “Poisoning Their Coffee,” 390. Hersch, “Poisoning Their Coffee,” 391. 28 Louis Armstrong, Satchmo: My Life in New Orleans (New York: Da Capo, 1954), 81. 29 Dizzy Gillespie, To Be or Not to Bop (New York: Da Capo, 1979), 295. 30 Hersch, “Poisoning Their Coffee,” 391. 31 Hersch, “Poisoning Their Coffee,” 390. 32 Hersch, “Poisoning Their Coffee,” 387. 27
for a German musical, to his impoverished childhood in New Orleans. 33 He adopted “When It’s Sleepy Time Down South” as his signature song, making over one hundred recordings of it. The lyrics refer nostalgically to slavery and feature racial slurs, but under Armstrong’s influence, the song becomes a tribute to the tenacity of the slaves to survive and find what happiness they could in their circumstances.34 While his advice was directed toward African Americans, it resonated with the colonial intellectuals who felt much of the same discrimination, although from French imperialism rather than Jim Crow laws.35 Rather than adopt a teacher’s role, Baker criticized French imperialism through her appearance in French films and through Paul Colin’s use of her image in his immensely successful paintings and prints. Despite being American, she had become so thoroughly exoticized that she became a figurehead for black French colonials in film and print. 36 In Princesse Tam Tam, she plays an uninhibited African woman opposite a white French lover who initially attempts to civilize her before realizing the artificiality of his own teachings. She represented the burgeoning black culture of the colonies and its troubled relation with the traditional white French mainstream, and her performances encouraged her audiences to grapple with what French culture was and should be. 37 Furthermore, Baker allowed Colin to use her image to draw attention to the plight of the colonies. She appeared on posters asking for donations for tornado stricken Guadeloupeans and celebrating Antilleans who had rebuilt SaintPierre after the eruption of Mount Pelée. Besides being humanitarian appeals, these posters implicitly criticized the French government’s failures in providing for its colonial subjects. 38 33
Hersch, “Poisoning Their Coffee,” 391. Hersch, “Poisoning Their Coffee,” 387-8. 35 Lane, Jazz and Machine-Age Imperialism, 86. 36 Boittin, “Josephine Baker,” 24. 37 Boittin, “Josephine Baker,” 25-6. 38 Boittin, “Josephine Baker,” 24. 34
Using her immense popularity, she exposed the lie of French imperialism; the colonies had become as civilized as metropolitan France and the continuing suppression of their freedoms could no longer be justified. 39 In the years after World War II, the leverage gained from participation in the war allowed disaffected people of color in both France and the United States to speak more openly about their grievances, and the compromises made by figures like Armstrong and Baker became shameful examples of collaborationism.40 The passage of time only further obfuscates the subtleties of Armstrong’s character and the causes to which Baker lent her image that exonerate their behavior. As present social justice movements seek further rights for the LGBTQ+ community, for example, we must not forget the context in which early activists for LGBTQ+ rights existed and the impact they had at the time, even if they seem dated or offensive now. To do otherwise would be to deny these activists the praise they deserve and to wrongfully tarnish their legacies.
Boittin, “Josephine Baker,” 29. Hersch, “Poisoning Their Coffee,” 372.
Bicycle Shop Proposal by Camilla Niles-Steger
Yash Purohit (see fig. 1) woke up frantically to no alarm. He reached for his phone with a sense of impending doom—it was 20 minutes before his 8 a.m. class, and his phone was dead. It was a fifteen-minute walk from his dorm, so he hopped on his bike and raced to class to cut his time in half. Yash, a case study for this essay, forgot to check his tire pressure and subsequently zoomed over a seemingly harmless fissure in the street. The front tire began to hiss as
Figure 1. Yash Purohit, Case Western Student
its air flooded out. His bike slowed to a crawl, and he walked the rest of the way to class, arriving about 10 minutes late. Yash’s bike remains idle in the dorm bike room, out of commission and collecting dust. When students are presented with the option to bring their bikes to campus, they begin a cost-benefit analysis. There are a multitude of positives to biking on campus, including travel efficiency, exercise, and reduced carbon emissions. However, bikes take up significant space on the commute to a college campus and mechanical issues are inevitable, so one must then decide whether or not the campus has the infrastructure to positively support the cycling experience. When there are no bike shops in a reasonable radius from the campus, the “benefit” value shrinks dramatically and students are less inclined to make the trip. If one problem arises there is no feasible solution. Therefore, an on-campus bike shop would be a valuable amenity, in that it provides students with a means to fix, upgrade, buy, or rent bikes; it maximizes the practicality
2 of having a bike on campus and provides a positive, electrifying experience to the user and community; and it encourages continued cycling and recommendation to one’s peers. Yash Purohit is a prime example of why an on-campus bike shop is so critical to the progression and promotion of cycling in a university environment. In my interview with Yash, I asked him a series of questions about his bike problem, his attempts at a solution, and what he thinks would have made a solution more tangible. Yash’s problem was that “The front tire was either punctured or the inner tube had been destroyed. Whenever I pump air, it doesn’t stay in the tire.”1 The pump that Yash is referencing is the one available to students near Wade Commons but is irrelevant to any need that exceeds a low tire pressure, rendering it entirely useless to Yash and so many others. The most proximal bike shop to campus, Cain Park Bicycle, is a ten-minute drive away and a 2.7 mi distance if you were to walk (see fig. 2).
Figure 2. Google Maps from campus to Cain Park Bicycle
It is generally open from 12 to 6 p.m. and closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, providing a very slim window of time for a student whose classes will often fall within that time frame.2 I asked Yash if he had made any attempts to go to this bike shop, and his answer was one of frustration: “I took a $15 Uber XL there, being fortunate enough that the driver was willing to
Yash Purohit (student) in discussion with the author, October 2020. Cain Park Bicycle, Google Maps, 2020.
3 allow me to put my bike inside. I had made a reservation over the phone with the shop and when I got there, they didn’t show up, like the people that owned the shop just didn’t come.”3 To get a better understanding of the time commitment that the flat tire had now incurred, I asked about the process of booking the failed appointment up to the actual tire fix. Yash’s response was even more upsetting than the previous one, “It has been three weeks since my tire was flat. It took me about two weeks to find a time to get it fixed because we were in the midst of midterms. And, because my mission there was so unsuccessful, I’ll probably have to bring it back to Chicago in the winter to get it fixed.”4 When I asked Yash if an on-campus bike shop would have been useful in this circumstance, he let out a laugh, threw up his arms in a shrug, and said, “Well, not only would we not be having this conversation, but I probably would’ve gotten my bike fixed the day it happened. You know I live on South Side [meaning the South Campus dorms], it takes forever to get anywhere.”5 The lack of a bike shop on campus leads to situations like Yash’s, where what could have been a two-hour round-trip fix turned into a more than three-week process for a problem that likely will never be resolved at CWRU this semester. There are definitely alternative approaches that students can take to fix their bikes. One could ship tools in from Amazon, but that pulls away from the investment into small businesses on Case Western Reserve University’s campus and requires significant time spent learning how to fix the bike in question. An on-campus bike shop embedded into the community would have given Yash a direct solution, shortened the amount of time taken for him to get back on his bike, and begun the encouragement of future, rather than fewer, rides among Case Western students.
Purohit, Discussion Purohit, Discussion 5 Purohit, Discussion. 4
4 What I am proposing to the University is a bike shop run for and by students, with a focus on community outreach and education. The University would own the shop, tentatively named “The Spartan Bike Shop,” and employ a faculty advisor to oversee student workers. With the Figure 3. Artist's Rendering of The Spartan Bike Shop
possibility for student work experience, as
well as other benefits including more opportunities for community projects, enjoyable facilitation of the biking experience, and more cause for usage and fitness, the shop has a far-reaching capacity for being a holistic and uplifting focal point of campus activity. Additionally, a campus bike shop is not the current status quo for universities. It shows an investment into the student, the general culture of its student body, and extended community; students, parents, and Cleveland residents alike will appreciate it. The following paragraphs describe the ins and outs of the shop and why Case Western can and should bring a bicycle shop to campus.
Who is running the shop? The shop would be run by students with a faculty member monitoring the operations, a pseudo hands-off CEO of the business. The bike mechanics, sales people, CFO, COO, CMO, CIO would be students who have an interest in those areas or are looking for a new experience or hobby. Their compensation could be filtered through work-study programs or kept independent of the work-study program. All of these positions would be focused on optimizing and growing the revenues and activity of the business. They would be responsible for promoting and planning
5 community events that focus on establishing support, experiences, and information to those it serves. Students would apply for positions through Handshake. Managerial positions could be filled on a volunteer basis because they wouldn’t involve as much labor, while still serving as important work experience for future professional applications. Immediately, the store is providing students with direct experience in the workforce and enriching the community that they reside in. Not only could the people employed by the shop extract something from it, but it could also be an option for Senior Capstones. For example, if a materials science major wanted to investigate different possibilities for components of the bicycle, they could utilize the shop’s resources to achieve that goal. It is a means for the University to promote the development of cutting-edge technology and products, a trait that draws the best and brightest to Case Western’s campus every Fall.
What do the financials look like? What are the services to be provided? To get a better understanding of the types of services, space, revenues, and costs involved in the undertaking of this project, I reached out to Adam Kaplan, owner of Peregrine Bicycle Studio based in Chicago, and Vicky Zhang, a part-owner at Washington University, St. Louis’s student-run bike shop, Bear’s Bikes. In my conversation with Kaplan, we discussed the financial components of bicycle shops, space, and what the revenue focus should be for a campus bike shop. Per Kaplan’s recommendation, The Spartan Bike Shop should not focus on expensive, high-commitment, one-time items such as whole bikes; instead, the focus should be on cyclically purchased items.6 The average college student is not going to want to commit
Adam Kaplan, in discussion with the author, November 2020
6 hundreds of dollars to a bike, which usually start at about $300 for lower-end road bikes or fixed gear bikes. Not only would those sales be more infrequent, but holding bikes in-shop takes up a lot of square footage that could otherwise be spared. Peregrine Bicycle Studio is 10,000 sq. ft. and houses whole bikes for purchase, adding about 5,000 sq. ft. to his required space.7 He estimated a total 5,000 sq. ft. necessary for The Spartan Bike Shop. The overall price and size of the shop depends on location, with possible options being the ThinkBox (see fig. 4) or a new location on Freiberger Field.8 Obviously the advent of an entirely new shop would be costly, but it also might promote an even further sense of investment and social integration. Alternatively,
Figure 4. Case Western's ThinkBox Facility
Sears ThinkBox likely already has a majority of the tools that the work stands in the cycling shop would require. The shop would need two workspaces to optimize efficiency and tools to accompany them, totaling an estimated price of $25,000.
Kaplan, Discussion. It has since been brought to my attention that Freiberger Field has had multiple efforts to maintain its domain as a greenery. It is now my suggestion that the ThinkBox be the primary location. 8
7 Kaplan suggested two distributors, Olympic Supply out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Quality Bicycle Products.9 It was his understanding that these distributors could provide reasonably priced products with the flexibility to allow individual whole-bikes at the customer’s request. Thus, the shop would not need to house the bikes, but could instead supply bicycles on a per-customer basis from the supplier catalogue with a slight markup incorporated. Instead of whole bikes and frames, he recommended that the services and products of focus should be those that are routinely purchased, such as pumps, tubes, tires, seats, handlebars, chains, etc.10 The services would include tune-ups, repair products, parts upgrades, add-ons and gadgets, safety products, and whole-sale bikes. There would also be an opportunity to offer rentals (time varying based on students’ preference) to students with a Student ID, which would help to offset staff payroll and other operational costs. Those rentals could be purchased from students who are looking to trade up their bicycles, or from online marketplaces like Facebook, where quality bikes can be purchased at very reasonable prices. When a student has a free day or needs a break from the constant onslaught of rigorous course material, they can come to The Spartan Bike Shop for a bike rental and scan their student ID, which immediately places a security deposit on their student account that is subsequently relieved when the student returns the bike and pays for their rental via CaseCash or another payment method. The rentals would allow students to run errands around campus, quickly get to classes on a busy day, or explore the Cleveland area. Bears Bikes is a business involved in the Washington University in St. Louis Student Entrepreneurial Program (STEP) which “provides a unique opportunity for students to own a business on campus that serves the Washington University community. Student owners can 9
Kaplan, Discussion. Kaplan, Discussion.
8 supplement the valuable business and entrepreneurial skills they learn in the classroom while gaining real world experience as they manage and lead their own businesses.”11 The shop is run by a seven-person team that pays monthly rent to the University. Co-owner Zhang said their revenue has averaged $25,000 per year and annual costs are around $4000, making it a highly profitable business that is treated like a financial asset.12 The students own the shop and thus pay themselves directly from the shop’s profits. This revenue estimate mirrors Kaplan’s for The Spartan Bike Shop. While the details of the likely financial success of the campus bike shop are appealing and evident, it is still crucial that the shop does its best to support and serve its community. Payment plans are a great way to expand the reach of the bike shop. Bicycles are a significant financial commitment and their upkeep can be financially draining for a college student, even without Yash’s bad luck. Payment plans can enable students on a budget to experience cycling and enhance their college experience in the best way possible. Payment plans would apply to any purchases over $50 and be tied to their students’ Case Western accounts just as the rentals would be. The goal is to make the experience friendly and easy for the student. By providing this support for students, the shop invites people to the cycling community and allows them to feel comfortable in experimenting with a new activity. This, combined with the option to buy new bikes, would allow students to buy a bike for transportation if they did not think it was a reasonable expense prior. Rates of cycling would increase, motor vehicle-induced carbon dioxide emissions would decrease, and physical and mental health would be promoted and made a mission of the University.
“Student Entrepreneurial Program,” Washington University in St. Louis, Skandarlaris Center for Interdisciplinary Innovation and Entrepreneurship, 2019, https://skandalaris.wustl.edu/step/. 12 Zhang, in discussion with the author, November 2020.
9 What about students like Yash in the south residential campus, somewhat remoted from the proposed site for The Spartan Bike Shop? An inexpensive, easy allocation of resources for the shop could be “small fix stands” (see fig. 5) that carry pumps and basic tools for easily fixed problems. They would exist as an easy option when cyclists have weakly-aired tires, loose breaks, or chains and/or derailleurs that require lubrication or adjustment. One would be located at the top of the Elephant Steps and the other would be located in the North Residential Quad. These satellite stations would increase cycling visibility and serve as an extremely useful resource and support for the cyclist. They would also help to ensure that less goes wrong for community cyclists because they can
Figure 5. Small Fix Stand. "DIY bike repair stand created by West Town Bikes" by Steven Vance is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
take any necessary precautions using the small fix stand’s tools (for instance, to avoid flats and other problems).
How would the community be impacted? Bike shops are critical to promoting a healthy cycling environment in any community. They function to provide the user with a more direct, personal path to bike purchase, instruction, and knowledge. All of these components promote self-sufficiency for future excursions, are a boon to the local economy and community infrastructure, and are the easiest, fastest means to a much-needed bicycle repair. With a campus-run bike shop, not only would there be an easy, simple means to solve any bike issues or answer questions, but it would foster a more active student body, operating as a channel for stress relief, environmental consciousness, and community engagement.
10 Timothy Wesolowski, a Professor of Portland State University, said, “A bike shop can be an asset to a community by acting as an anchor or landmark, a social gathering place, an advocate for transportation planning, and a foundation for cycling in the area” and that “several studies have shown a strong correlation between the rate of bicycling and an area’s bicycle friendliness vis-à-vis infrastructure.”13 For Yash and others, there is little to no bicycle infrastructure on CWRU’s campus. He hasn’t had his bike fixed and there is a subsequent decrease in cycling rates at Case Western. The bike shop is a foundational component for the rest of the positive change that Case Western might need to truly propel its bike infrastructure forward and diversify the social and active community outlets. When asked if the shop has had a positive impact on the cycling culture on campus, Zhang of Bears Bikes said, “I think it does influence bike usage rates and experiences, yes.”14 She said that the shop works to provide free advice and information to students so that they can advance on their own skill and knowledge. They cater to every type of rider, both educating and enriching their cycling adventures, and the result is increased rates of cycling, a more environmentally conscious student body, and a less car-polluted campus. She also made note of their move-in week fair that they hold to promote visibility and community outreach with incoming and returning students. Zhang said that parents are always impressed by the university’s commitment to its students and how exciting it is that the university cares to provide the students with substantive experience in a field that interests them.15 Bears Bikes has also been reactive to COVID-19. They have started shop-led bicycle rides that have picked up a following that they are comfortable and happy with. They also shifted
Wesolowski, Timothy. “The Great Good Bicycle Shop: Exploring the Community Roles of a Neighborhood Business,” Portland State University, 2015, https://pdxscholar.library.pdx.edu/honorstheses/137/. 14 Zhang, Discussion. 15 Zhang, Discussion.
11 their customer interface to Squarespace, enabling entirely contact-free services this fall. On Case Western’s campus, students were often holed up in dorms and housing due to the virus. An on-campus bike shop could have organized events to bicycle around Cleveland and provided community instructionals on bike tune-ups. With the gyms closed every other weekend on campus due to COVID contact tracing, it would have been a concrete, safe activity for students, providing more opportunities for physical activity and/or stress relief. Activities like races, bike hikes, challenges, campus tune-up days, or events that encourage more minority cycling populations to take part in cycling, build-up the community in a diverse and engaging way. Stanford University, the first U.S. college to implement a campus bike shop, has invested significantly into the cycling community and has seen unbelievable results in the attitudes, environmental impacts, and rates of cycling. In a 2017 transportation study conducted by the University, they found that when compared to the average American population, the Stanford population was more inclined to ride a bike and were 11% more likely to bike to campus every day.16 The investment into the bicycle infrastructure has resulted in a 10% increase in cycling rates from 2013 to 201717. To further ameliorate stress that might occur to a cyclist due to bike malfunctions, Stanford has an extension of their bike shop through seven “Bike Safety Repair Stands” that are spread out over campus for minor repairs and tire inflation.18 Owing to Stanford’s aggressive approach to maintaining and investing in the bicycle infrastructure of the campus, events like Stanford’s annual “Bike to Work” day have the opportunity to eliminate
“Stanford Bicycle Commuter Access Study.” Stanford University, October 2017, 12, https://transportation.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/201710/Stanford_Bicycle_Commuter_Access_Study_2017.pdf. 17 “Stanford Bicycle Commuter Access Study.” Stanford University, October 2017, 12, https://transportation.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/201710/Stanford_Bicycle_Commuter_Access_Study_2017.pdf. 18 “Bike Information and Resources for New Students”. Stanford Transportation, 2020, https://transportation.stanford.edu/bicycle/gear-and-tune/bike-safety-repair-stands.
12 8,700 pounds of carbon dioxide alone.19 That is one day out of the 365 in a year. There are over 2,000 students enrolled in their Commute Club which is centered around green alternatives for commuting.20 Lastly, students at Case Western want to see an on-campus bike shop come to fruition. When this proposal was presented to students in a SAGES course centered around bicycles, the students had overwhelming support for the concept:
“This seems like a great idea. As someone who rides a bike regularly on campus I see the need for a bike shop as my bike needed many repairs over the semester and a bike shop on campus would have greatly helped me in getting the parts I needed to fix my bike. This is something that everyone on campus can greatly benefit from. Some space in the ThinkBox could probably be used to set up the bike shop without having to create a new building.” --Daniel “I really like this idea and I think that this is one of the enable factors that would allow Case to have more students who heavily relied on biking because truthfully without a bike shop to support the students it would be very difficult to shift towards more bikes.” --Eli “I really can’t find any issues with this plan. Promotion of cycling on campus, work for students, community building, helpful services for students, all of it is great. As a Mechanical Engineering student, I’d love to work here and help other students while gaining some experience relevant to my major.” --Ryan
“Stanford Bicycle Commuter Access Study,” 12. “Stanford Bicycle Commuter Access Study,” 12.
How CWRU compares There are many academic institutions that have taken a stride with Stanford and Washington University St. Louis (se fig. 6).
Figure 6. Other colleges and universities with campus bike shops
When the endowments are compared, Case Western Reserve University’s endowment far exceeds the majority of the few that have been selected for reference, with Harvard, Stanford, and Pomona’s being the only ones that beat CWRU.21 Case Western Reserve University Endowment: $1.87 Billion ❖ ❖ ❖
University of Maryland – $355.3 Million22 Harvey Mudd College - $328.6 Million23 University of Denver - $786.4 Million24
Barham, James A. “The 100 Richest Universities: Their Generosity and Commitment to Research.” TheBestSchools.org, 2021, https://thebestschools.org/features/richest-universities-endowments-generosityresearch/. 22 “University of Maryland—College Park.” usnews.com. U.S. News & World Report, 2021, https://www.usnews.com/best-colleges/university-of-maryland-2103. 23 “Harvey Mudd College.” usnews.com. U.S. News & World Report, 2021, https://www.usnews.com/bestcolleges/harvey-mudd-college-1171. 24 “University of Denver.” usnews.com. U.S. News & World Report, 2021, https://www.usnews.com/bestcolleges/university-of-denver-1371.
14 ❖ ❖ ❖ ❖ ❖
University of Portland - $209.1 Million25 Claremont McKenna College - $865.6 Million26 Pitzer College - $144.4 Million27 Scripps College - $375.6 Million28 Pomona College - $2.3 Billion29
Case Western’s endowment is upwards of three times that of other notable institutions on this list. If these schools were able to find the funds to erect these bike shops, it can be assumed that Case Western can allocate funds for a bike shop, especially considering its potential contributions to the campus environment and culture. Not only does it seem that Case Western could have the funds to support an on-campus bike shop, but these institutions show that there is a market for these types of student experiences. It demonstrates an understanding of and recognition of the success found by these institutions that have chosen to support the cycling community and all it has to offer. Some colleges might not feel that an on-campus bike shop is a plausible solution to a lacking bicycle infrastructure. However, when schools do not have bike shops in a proximal location to campus, there is an extreme disincentive for any type of growth for the cycling community. The possible stress, fitness, and environmental solutions and opportunity that it brings to a college campus are limitless when a shop is available. With the construction of The Spartan Bike Shop, bicycles like Yash Purohit’s won’t go unfixed for weeks, less time and
“University of Portland.” usnews.com. U.S. News & World Report, 2021, https://www.usnews.com/bestcolleges/university-of-portland-3224. 26 “Claremont McKenna College.” usnews.com. U.S. News & World Report, 2021, https://www.usnews.com/bestcolleges/claremont-mckenna-college-1170. 27 “Pitzer College.” usnews.com. U. S. News & World Report, 2021, https://www.usnews.com/best-colleges/pitzercollege-1172. 28 “Scripps College.” usnews.com. U. S. News & World Report, 2021, https://www.usnews.com/bestcolleges/scripps-college-1174. 29 “Pomona College.” usnews.com. U. S. News & World Report, 2021, usnews.com. U. S. News & World Report, 2021.
15 money will be wasted on Ubers, and all CWRU cyclists will avoid unnecessary emotional strife during an already stressful semester. An on-campus bike shop is quick, practical, and alleviates stress from the student rider, providing accessibility and the promise of being back on the road again. Universities that invest and commit to constructing and maintaining a community-based bike shop establish a precedent that bike-users are not only welcomed, but also encouraged. Implementing a bike shop into the campus infrastructure will encourage cycling in the campus community. When the aggregate cycling population increases, so too do the opportunities for collaborative outreach programs that educate students on the costs and benefits of cycling, as well as campus cycling events. This level of integration would provide students with more avenues of community-building, volunteer opportunities, and modes of social entertainment. An expansion in the cycling population results in fewer carbon emissions and a less car-polluted campus, while also promoting physical fitness. The bike shop would develop and enhance the bicycling experience for students and the greater Cleveland area. One could buy a bike, rent a bike for a free weekend, upgrade their bike, or get some quick repairs. Events would be organized and promoted by the shop to cultivate collaboration amongst students and vitalize the cycling culture. From Stanford’s report, we saw that cycling has subliminal but powerful environmental positives. We also found that an investment in the culture and infrastructure like Stanford’s is massively beneficial to pro-cycling sentiments. These activities all contribute to cultivating a positive, enjoyable experience to college students who desire a cost-effective means of trekking throughout their campus community. All in all, an on-campus bike shop provides students with a multitude of benefits and is a sure-fire way for the academic institution to encourage cycling on campus.
1 The Uncanny in Surrealist Art by Madison Pugh
The Surrealist art movement, largely influenced by psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, allowed artists to explore the qualities of their unconscious minds. The resulting works of art have been described by many as uncanny. However, many artists of this movement, such as René Magritte, are known for juxtaposing common objects or ideas not typically associated with discomfort. Additionally, Magritte’s paintings are known for their simplicity, where only one or two minor changes are made to a relatively mundane work of art. One such painting is The Spirit of Geometry, where the head of a mother and child in a typical Madonna and Child work (see for example, Giovanni Battista’s Madonna and Child) are transposed to scale to create an entirely new work. Despite being a relatively simple change, the existence of any change in composition allows for the creation of the uncanny phenomena of the double, as discussed in Sigmund Freud’s “The Uncanny” and Mike Kelley’s “Playing with Dead Things.” The uncanny, as it occurs in The Spirit of Geometry, can then be applied to the rest of Magritte’s works through a comparison to Michel Foucault’s analysis entitled, “This is Not a Pipe.” This becomes significant, even many years after the height of the Surrealist movement, as the creation of the double allows Magritte to evoke negative emotions in the viewers of his works, forcing them to feel both his anger at organized religion and his anger resulting from Oedipal drama. In his essay, “The Uncanny,” Freud claims that “the double” can be one of the most effective sources of the uncanny. Although “the double” is most often associated with doppelgängers who are identical in appearance, it can also refer to those who are similar through features, traits, identities, knowledge, feelings, or any number of characteristics. As Freud
2 discusses in his essay “The Uncanny,” “there is a doubling, dividing and interchanging of the self” (Freud 234). This implies that the idea or image of a person is split between two entities who either share traits or oppose one another. He explains the uncanniness of the double as a result of the revival of surmounted primitive beliefs. In this case, the double, which was originally considered to be a source of insurance against the destruction of the ego, now becomes a reminder of the narcissism of early man. Thus, the uneasy feeling associated with the uncanny is evoked in anyone who is reminded of this human attribute. Freud further explains the phenomenon of the double through an exploration of E.T.A. Hoffman’s The Sandman, which provides an explanation that clarifies how a double can be created from a transposition of two non-identical figures. In this short novel, a young student named Nathaniel is haunted by his childhood fear of the Sandman. He falls in love with an automaton, Olympia, who he believes to be a real girl. The figure of the Sandman returns throughout Nathaniel’s life, first as Coppelius, a mechanician who visited his father often, and later as Coppola, a traveling optician. According to Freud, the double in this novel occurs from splitting the father image into good and evil. Early in Nathaniel’s life, Coppelius and his father are doubles, with Coppelius representing evil and Nathaniel’s father representing good. This occurs again later in the novel with Olympia’s “father,” Professor Spallanzani, representing good, and Coppola representing evil. Finally, the double occurs in Coppelius and Coppola, the figures of the Sandman, who share both physical appearances, motivations, and roles in Nathaniel’s life. Freud’s analysis therefore makes it clear that the creation of the double can occur in any number of ways and in many figures, such as mother and son. In The Spirit of Geometry, Magritte effectively uses illusionistic space as a tool to create the uncanny phenomenon of the double. In this piece, a complete transposition of a mother and
3 her child is achieved. Most importantly, the transposition of the two faces is to scale, with the mother’s head shrunken and the baby’s head enlarged. With this use of uniform scaling, the image is as close to the original, pre-transposition image as possible. For this reason, the symmetry of the peace is not disturbed, making the transposition seamless. All of these factors allow the mother and child to become each other’s doubles. Although they are clearly different figures, both in size, gender, and clothing, they have become one and the same. Although this doubling could simply represent the circle of life, with the child eventually becoming the caretaker of their parent, it is more likely a representation of Magritte’s relationship with his mother. Magritte’s mother suffered from depression, and committed suicide by drowning herself when Magritte was thirteen years old (“Rene Magritte Biography”). The effects of parent suicide on children are considered to be quite traumatic. However, according to psychoanalyst Martha Wolfenstein in “Loss, Rage, and Repetition,” “instead of grief, the most common reaction to the loss of a parent which we find in children and adolescents is rage” (Wolfenstein 432). To further explain the effects of parental death on children, Wolfenstein provides the case of Mary, whose father died when she was fourteen. She explains that Mary had experienced disturbances in her development prior to the loss of her father, including her mother’s depressive tendencies, that contributed to her anxiety of not being provided for. This anxious doubt was further exacerbated by her father’s death, resulting in a feeling of helplessness. Using the case of Mary and the findings of Wolfenstein, one could assume that Magritte, who took on a parental role by becoming a source of support and care for his mother prior to her death, had similar apprehensions as Mary about not being provided for. As a result, following his mother’s death, Magritte could have been left with lingering anger towards her, both for leaving him and for forcing upon him the responsibility of supporting her
4 emotionally, or more likely anger towards his environment in general. The painting therefore becomes a representation of his anger toward his mother, or at the very least, anger toward his environment of loss, depicted through the double. Although many of the feelings of the uncanny evoked by The Spirit of Geometry result from the composition of the piece, the work has the ability to be uncanny without any specific context. This idea is explored by Mike Kelley, an art curator who put together The Uncanny art exhibit, in his accompanying work “Playing with Dead Things.” In this piece, he discusses the creation of the double particularly in reference to readymades, where the artists take everyday objects, such as a bicycle wheel, and display them as art (see, for example, Marcel Duchamp’s Bicycle Wheel ). Kelley argues that “as ‘art’, [readymades] dematerialize, they refuse to stay themselves and become their own doppelganger” (33). This suggests that once these everyday objects are presented as art, they lose their meaning as real-life objects, thereby becoming their own doubles. This idea of art becoming its own double can be applied to Magritte’s work. In The Spirit of Geometry, not just do mother and son become doubles, but the work itself becomes a double to the original, pre-transposition image. As a result of the uniform scaling discussed earlier, the original image is not hard to imagine. For this reason, to the viewers, the idea of the original piece has the ability to evoke normal, positive emotions, while the work itself arouses feelings of unease and suspicion. The piece thereby becomes its own double, despite only one simple change being carried out. The Spirit of Geometry can also become a double to traditional Madonna and Child images, which depict the Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus. Both works show a mother figure holding her child in similar positions. However, beyond this similarity, they quickly begin to differ. While typical Madonna and Child images are full of rich and vibrant colors, the colors in
5 The Spirit of Geometry are all natural and relatively subdued, thereby not drawing attention to themselves. This draws viewer’s eye immediately to the transposition. In doing so, Magritte is able to twist the meaning of the original paintings. The figure of Madonna is no longer a doting mother or a divine entity, but rather an ordinary woman. As the figures that were held with such high regard throughout history become mundane individuals, Magritte’s work is revealed to also be religious commentary. In typical Madonna and child images, Mary is wearing a red robe with a blue mantle, which symbolize the earth and divinity. However, in The Spirit of Geometry, the mother figure is wearing a plain gray skirt and black top. Through this depiction, Mary becomes not a divine figure to be worshiped, but a regular mother. However, the more modern, plain clothing is juxtaposed with the white cloth fabric draped over the child figure, similar to the original works. Due to this, the baby figure retains its innocence and purity, but, without the Virgin Mary as its mother, loses its status. Through the doubling of The Spirit of Geometry with these typical works, Magritte humanizes the divine, and therefore criticizes religious hierarchical ideals. This is made more obvious by transposing their heads. While the changes in clothing and colors are more subtle, their switched heads are striking and unmistakable. Through this change, Magritte is able to grab attention, and force viewers to question both the painting and its origin. As they study the work further, in search answers to their questions, they will be more likely to pick up on the other, more understated details. This idea of Magritte’s art being capable of becoming its own double, and therefore subverting typically elicited emotions, can be further explored through another of his works. In “This Is Not a Pipe,” Michel Foucault analyses Magritte’s This is Not a Pipe. Foucault claims that “the vague uneasiness provoked” (20) by the piece results from its existence as a calligram. He claims that Magritte secretly constructed, then undid a calligram. This means that an image
6 of a pipe was originally created by arranging the phrase that now lies below the image of the pipe in the shape of the pipe. This becomes important in regards to the uncanny, as the words of the painting are recognized not as words, but drawings of words, just as the pipe is not actually a pipe, but a painting of one. Therefore, Foucault concludes: the invisible, preliminary calligraphic operation intertwined the writing and the drawing, and when Magritte restored things to their own places, he took care that the shape would preserve the patience of the writing and that the text remains always only a drawing of a representation. (23) This work can then become its own double as well, whether the original is a calligram as Foucault believes, or simply a drawing of a pipe previously agreed to be interpreted as a pipe. Through the use of the uncanny effect of the double, Magritte ensures that viewers feel uneasy as he questions the accepted norms of art. The uncanny feeling elicited by Magritte’s works then becomes a powerful tool. While many works of art are simply viewed, Magritte’s works can be felt. The Spirit of Geometry is a very linear work; thus, the figures are clearly defined and separated not just by color. Additionally, the brush strokes are unnoticeable, except perhaps in the curtain. By subduing the brushstrokes, the painting becomes more realistic and less stylistic. This makes the painting appear to be based further in reality, and removes the uncanny from the realm of fantasy. For this reason, viewers are able to become fully immersed in the work, thereby allowing Magritte to use the uncanny to subvert the emotions that a typical piece of art would evoke. If one usually attaches positive feelings to works of Madonna and Child, or any depiction of a mother and son, they should now feel uncomfortable. Whether one interprets this work as a representation of Magritte’s anger towards his mother, as religious commentary, or as both, it is clear that Magritte
7 is upset. No one should be comfortable viewing this work, and the uncanny ensures that they will not be. René Magritte, unlike other Surrealist artists who distorted the objects in the works themselves, kept his subjects as realistic as possible, instead changing their perspective or arrangement. In his work, The Spirit of Geometry, Magritte evokes a sense of uncanny in viewers through the creation of the mother and child as doubles. Aside from composition, the work was able to become uncanny as a double of itself, of the real image of the mother and son before the transposition of their heads, and of traditional Madonna and Child works. Through the uncanny, Magritte is able to subvert any positive emotions created by the work, and force viewers to feel what he feels, whether that is anger, discomfort, or sadness. This pertains also to Magritte’s This Is Not a Pipe, and can therefore be applied to Magritte’s other Surrealist works as an explanation for how a simple change in realistic subjects can evoke the sense of uncanny in viewers.
8 Works Cited Duchamp, Marcel. Bicycle Wheel. 1951 (third version, after lost original of 1913). MoMA, https://www.moma.org/collection/works/81631 Foucault, Michel. This Is Not a Pipe. University of California Press, 1983. Freud, Sigmund, et al. “The Uncanny.” The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Hogarth Press, 1900. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip,shib&db=cat07006a&AN=c wru.b1248860&site=eds-live. Kelley, Mike. “Playing with Dead Things.” The Uncanny, 2004. Magritte, René. The Spirit of Geometry. 1937. Tate, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/magritte-the-spirit-of-geometry-t00892 Magritte, René. This is Not a Pipe. 1929, The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, https://collections.lacma.org/node/239578 “Rene Magritte Biography.” Rene Magritte Biography, www.renemagritte.org/biography.jsp. Salvi, Giovanni Battista. Madonna and Child. http://www.artnet.com/artists/giovanni-battistasalvi-il-sassoferrato/madonna-and-child-hnASZRZFy_xsdQHJyMqcEg2 Wolfenstein, Martha. “Loss, Rage, and Repetition.” The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, vol. 24, 1969, doi:10.1080/00797308.1969.11822702.
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PHOTO BY PATRICK FORE ON UNSPLASH
Alphabet Soup: Why Making STEM into STREAM Will Not Fix the Imbalance in Education by Giuliana Conte In the last dozen or so years, you can’t talk about education without hearing the term “STEM.” This acronym, representing “Science,” “Technology,” “Engineering,” and “Math,” has become a loaded topic in education. Educators, administrators, and politicians take for granted that these topics should be the main area of focus for K-12 educators. However, in more recent years, there has been substantial disagreement on how necessary and useful—or even detrimental—this focus is. In this paper, I will attempt to define what a STEM worker is, as there is no formal definition of the term. We will look at how science and technology alarmists have convinced educators, lobbyists, and politicians that there is a STEM worker shortage in America, while there is little to no research confirming this shortage. We will also look at the recent addition of “A” and even “R” to the acronym to represent “Arts” and “Reading/wRiting” as an attempt to force other fields into the STEM craze. We will examine why the arts and humanities are essential to us outside of their pure utility in increasing traditional “STEM” scores or writing grammatically-correct reports or research papers. Finally, we will conclude by discussing the perceived dichotomy between STEM fields and the arts/humanities as relating to current neuroscience research examining the tension between empathic and analytic reasoning. Adding “Reading” or “Arts” to STEM will not, in reality, balance the questionable emphasis on analytic reasoning in modern K-12 education and beyond; the arts and humanities need to be recognized for their value in fostering empathic thinking, independent of its counterpart analytic thinking, as an imperative tool to not only develop stronger interpersonal relationships, but also create narratives that can bring countless disparate people together.
To begin with the most basic question: what is a STEM worker? Is it anyone who has a degree in a STEM field? Is it one who currently works in a STEM field, regardless of their degree? And what is a STEM field? According to the National Science Foundation’s National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, occupations covered include: “Computer and mathematical scientists; biological, agricultural, and other life scientists; physical and related scientists; social and related scientists; and engineers” (Finamore, et al., 2013, p. 4), while S&E“related” [Science and Engineering-related] occupations are a broader category, including “health-related occupations, S&E managers, S&E precollege teachers, S&E technicians and technologists, and other S&E-related occupations, such as architects and actuaries” (Finamore, et al., 2013, p. 4). However, this definition is contested even within the United States government. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, STEM occupations include the following: mathematical science occupations; architects, surveyors, and cartographers; STEM-related postsecondary teachers; physical scientists; life scientists; life and physical science technicians; STEM-related sales; STEM-related management; drafters, engineering technicians, and mapping technicians; engineers; and computer occupations (Fayer, Lacey, & Watson, 2017, p. 2). Some discrepancy is already evident. For example, the NSF considers actuaries S&E-related, while they are not counted in the BLS calculations. Even more telling is that, according to the BLS, social scientists are counted as STEM occupations, but in the NSF reports there is no mention of them. Social science majors in the US represent a vast share of students; according to a Georgetown University report, it is the third largest grouping of majors, behind only the humanities and liberal arts and engineering (Carnevale, Strohl, and Melton, 2013, p. 37). Then another question regarding education arises: according to a different Georgetown University study, “. . . out of 100 students who obtain a
Bachelor’s degree, only 19 will graduate with a STEM major” (Carnevale, Smith, and Melton, 2014, pp. 43). Furthermore, only 10 of those 19 students will work in a job related to their degree in the first years after graduation, and after 10 years, that number drops to eight (Carnevale, Smith, and Melton, 2014, pp. 43). Are those original 19 STEM workers? Or is it just eight? The categorization remains ambiguous and can change from source to source. The National Science Foundation found that “in 2015, estimates of the size of the S&E workforce ranged from over 6 million to more than 23 million depending on the definition used” (National Science Board, 2018, p. 302). Thus merely defining the fields included in STEM is already proving impossible. As shown above, the term “STEM workers” has become something of a hollow buzzword and is largely open to interpretation. Yet the idea that there is a “shortage” of said STEM workers has pervaded the discussion on education; it has gotten to the point that such assertions are regarded as conventional wisdom. These claims are also nothing new—sources going back as far as a century ago have always warned that we as a country are falling behind in engineering and technology when compared to other countries. An article published by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers cites at least one quote per decade claiming there is a shortage of engineers going back to the 1930s. In 1934, the dean of NYU’s College of Engineering said “one of our greatest industrial organizations, after careful study, predicts the entire absorption of [engineers] by the end of 1936, with a probable shortage of available engineers at that time” (as quoted in Charette, 2013). In 1945, the director of the U.S. Office of Scientific Research and Development claimed that we would “enter the postwar period with a serious deficit in our trained scientific personnel” (as quoted in Charette, 2013). In 1954 it was the president of MIT claiming our national defense was threatened by this shortage; then in 1970 another college president alleged that “the expected demand for engineers will exceed not only
the supply coming from American engineering schools, but also the combined supply from the United States and foreign countries”; finally, Bill Gates and the CEO of Texas Instruments echoed these sentiments in 2008 and 2013, respectively (Charette, 2013). In fact, from this timeline it is clear that such claims have been made every decade for the past 90 years. However, these claims are made in direct contradiction to the evidence: a plethora of studies have found that there is no shortage of STEM workers at all. A study from the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit research organization, “did not find evidence that such shortages have existed at least since 1990, nor that they are on the horizon” (Butz et al., 2004, p. xv). A working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research claims, “The job market for young scientists and engineers in the US has worsened relative to job markets for young workers in many other high-level occupations, which discourages US students from going on in these fields” (Freeman, 2005, p. 2). This paper also points out that while every few years or so, highlevel tech executives make the claim that the US has a shortage of scientists and engineers, economists have “struggled to interpret these claims” (Freeman, 2005, p. 9). A particularly telling analysis of students in the S&E pipeline, from education to the labor market, found that not only is there no shortage of S&E workers, but the supply of scientists and engineers far outweighs demand: “each year there are more than three times as many S&E four-year college graduates as S&E job openings” (Lowell & Salzman, 2007, p. ii). These and many more sources have found little-to-no evidence suggesting there currently is—or ever has been—a STEM worker crisis in the United States. After reviewing the data and seeing that there is no shortage of STEM workers, the next logical question is why, then, does everyone seem to think there is one? Michael S. Teitelbaum’s 2014 book Falling Behind?: Boom, Bust, and the Global Race for Scientific Talent addresses this
very question. A research associate at Harvard Law School, Teitelbaum has identified a pattern of “alarm, boom, and bust” dating back to at least World War II in relation to the United States’ science and engineering workforce (Teitelbaum, 2014, p. 2). The first stage, “alarm,” involves corporate, political, and opinion leaders claiming, without evidence, that the United States is “’falling behind’ in the supply of scientists and/or engineers” (Teitelbaum, 2014, pp. 2). Teitelbaum describes the second stage, “boom,” as one where U.S. policymakers get involved, resulting in the “rapid expansion in the supply of scientists and engineers” (Teitelbaum, 2014, pp. 2-3). In the final stage, “bust,” this influx of young people now educated in the sciences and engineering enter a suddenly tepid job market (Teitelbaum, 2014, pp. 3). This cycle has been repeated by policymakers not just in the United States, but also abroad in countries such as India, South Africa, and Brazil (Charette, 2013). Teitelbaum has found in his research not only that problems with “the U.S. science and engineering workforce are structural in origin and cannot be cured simply by providing additional funding,” but also that “efforts of this kind have proved to be destabilizing” and harmful to the workforce (Teitelbaum, 2014, pp. 3). Many of the cycles that Teitelbaum writes about in his book were initiated by national security concerns, such as the cycle that started when Sputnik was launched in 1957, or the one that began in the 1980s with the United States’ defense stockpile under Ronald Reagan (Teitelbaum, 2014, pp. 28). These repeated cycles show that United States policymakers, lobbyists, and other political leaders have continuously used “national security concerns” as an excuse to cause panic about the scientist and engineer workforce, resulting in money being poured into these subjects, as will be demonstrated later in this paper, with little examination or questioning by outside parties. I would argue that it is not a coincidence that these lobbyists and other leaders are increasing funding to subjects that are frequently used to advance military technology. The
United States obviously has a vested interest in maintaining their military, and the STEM “crazes” that they push serve a very specific purpose. A 2011 study by the Department of Defense emphasized that “70% of department employees would be eligible for retirement in the STEM fields by 2013” (Land, 2013, p. 548). The U.S. military, as well as the tech corporations we have seen grow exponentially in recent years, want as big of a pool of scientists and engineers as possible, so that they can hire only the best and the brightest while leaving the others behind. Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the Federal Reserve, said in 2007 that he advocated for “boosting the number of skilled immigrants entering the United States so as to ‘suppress’ the wages of their U.S. counterparts, which he considered too high” (Charette, 2013). This evidence shows government leaders’ explicit intention of flooding the labor market in order to keep wages low. Once we acknowledge that the “shortage” alarmists have perpetuated is questionable at best, we can examine the addition of more letters (“A”rts and “R”eading/w“R”iting) to the STEM acronym, turning it into STEAM or even STREAM. These attempts began in the 2000s into the early 2010s, with a foundational paper on the subject written by scholar and middle school technology education teacher Georgette Yakman. In her paper “STEAM Education: an overview of creating a model of integrative education,” she presents STEAM (stylized ST∑@M) as a model for educators to integrate the “silos” of the traditional subjects into a more comprehensive and cohesive curriculum (Yakman, 2008, p. 1). She discusses the history of major educational theorists, starting with Socrates and Aristotle, through Descartes, Rousseau, Dewey, and many others (Yakman, 2008, pp. 2-4). She particularly emphasizes that Dewey “promotes spelling out linkages between concepts, contents, and contexts to look for connections that are not obvious,” claiming that this approach is at the essence of what STEAM education is
meant to be (2008, p. 4). She quotes leading technology education scholar W. E. Dugger Jr. as explaining the STEM craze thusly: STEM is a politically good move,philosophically, mathematics and science don’t want to adopt technology and neither does technology want to adopt mathematics and science. There are pitfalls and opportunities with all of these options. We [technology educators] are moving towards engineering education and STEM versus [engineering] becoming part of science. (as quoted in Yakman, 2008, p. 11) The first sentence in this quote lays out what one might assume up front but be unwilling to say—it’s all about the money. It is very interesting that Yakman included this quote in her paper, as it could somewhat undermine her point. She interprets Dugger’s quote as a fear of disciplines “being lost within each other”, and presents STEAM as the way to balance the perceived power disparity between disciplines in regards to politics and economics (Yakman, 2008, p. 11). However, I would argue that this framework that she presents is nothing more than a politically convenient way to squeeze the arts into a framework that has nothing to do with them solely to get more funding. To be sure, Yakman’s implicit concerns about politics and funding are extremely valid. As recently as November 2019, the United States federal government announced it has plans to invest $540 million in STEM fields, with almost 20% of that going to projects specifically focusing on computer science (U.S. Department of Education, 2019, paras. 1, 6). The executive branch’s proposed budget last year suggested eliminating four federal agencies: the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The budget cut between the four of them amounts to almost $1 billion (McGlone, 2018, paras. 1-2). This proposal is nothing
new, and the leaders of these organizations have emphasized that such budget cuts will completely decimate these organizations (McGlone, 2018, paras. 5, 8, 11-16). Federal funding of the arts and humanities through national endowments for each of them has always been dwarfed by federal funding of science and engineering research, but in recent years that gap has been growing (American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2013, p. 39). In 2011, the federal government provided more than twice the amount of academic research and development funding to the biological sciences, engineering, mathematical & physical sciences, and medical sciences than it did to the humanities (American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2013, p. 42). The federal funding gap places a quantified value on certain majors or areas of study over others and creates a rift in the perceived value of these areas of study. This perceived value then influences federal budgets, and the cycle continues. Some leaders in the arts and humanities try to combat this funding gap with arguments about why the arts are important in relation to the economy or even in relation to science and math scores. For example, when the federal budget proposed cutting four arts and humanities endowments, Robert Lynch, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts, pushed back by saying that “all the data, everything, points to the fact that investment in the arts industry has been a big win, economically and job-wise” (as quoted in McGlone, 2018, para. 5). Studies have found that verbal and math SAT scores of students who study any form of art in high school are significantly higher than those who don’t (Vaughn & Winner, 2000, p. 86). This common argument is based on the axiom that the arts are only useful in relation to scientific subjects or to the job market. However, nowhere do policymakers address the importance of the arts in and of itself, let alone the utility of science and engineering in relation to advancing studies in the arts and humanities.
Since there is a push to move funding away from the arts and into science and engineering, it would make sense that educators and researchers in those fields are desperate to retain funding in any way possible. Their newest approach is adding “A” and even “R” to the acronym to represent “Arts” and “Reading/wRiting.” However, the idea of adding these disciplines to “STEM” is extremely misguided. In another foundational paper on STEAM, art educator Michelle Land makes a transparent argument that is completely damning. She writes: Moreover, the “Annual Industrial Capabilities Report to Congress”, from the Department of Defense in 2011, estimated that 70% of department employees would be eligible for retirement in the STEM fields by 2013. With a hasty youth focused on self-indulgence and leisure, we must make STEM education more appealing. Adding the arts into the STEM equation can re-invigorate the platform, providing not only an interesting approach, but also opportunities for the self-expression and personal connection new generations crave. (Land, 2013, p. 548) This quote is particularly incriminatory for several reasons. For one, by specifically citing the Department of Defense as a reason to attract more young people to STEM fields, she proves that the push to get more students into STEM is a not-so-thinly veiled attempt by the U.S. government to drive U.S. superiority in science and engineering for purposes of war, a pattern we have seen before from alarmists in times of supposed national security concern. If the reason we need students to study science and engineering is just because we need the Department of Defense to be fully staffed, then what more is this craze than another one of the alarm/boom/bust cycles that Teitelbaum identified in his book? It is just another repetition of history that has already been repeated so many times in the last century. The second part of this quote that is damning to her point is that she explicitly states that adding arts to STEM is simply a marketing
ploy. Nowhere is the actual value of the arts discussed; it’s simply added as a way to appeal to what older generations see as lazy kids. There is no attempt to integrate the arts in an actually meaningful or valuable way. The above quote sums up the academic attitude toward STEAM; none of the papers I have found attempt to talk about why the arts are valuable outside of the context of science or the economy. The focus is always on a return on investment, whether for individuals who choose to study the arts or for the military-industrial complex. The benefits that they provide in terms of health, happiness, and quality of life for people living in society are not considered. The arts and humanities have the unique ability to look at things in context and in relation to past events. Science cannot look at subjects in context. The scientific method necessitates that all observations are made separately, in a sterile and reproducible environment. Without context though, the observations are meaningless. Without using the arts and humanities to contextualize and interpret claims made by science, what’s the point of making any scientific claims? In her 1985 essay “Poetry is Not a Luxury,” Audre Lorde lays out the titular argument: “Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought” (p. 372). She continues: “…there are no new ideas. There are only new ways of making them felt —of examining what those ideas feel like…” (Lorde, 1985, p. 373). This is the unique value that the arts and humanities have that the sciences could never supply. Poems such as Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey connect us with the past, as some of the only remnants of cultures that have died off long ago. Ancient plays tell us about the lives of people who lived thousands of years before us, and the fact that they survived and are still performed today connects us to the past in a way science never could. Without the arts, we would not be able to, as Lorde says, “give name to the nameless.” No form of science can name what love is, or what friendship means, or how grief feels, and these are precisely the
thoughts that make life worth living at all. For this reason, the discourse on this issue is backwards. The sciences are not fundamental while the arts are secondary, as the current discussion assumes; in fact, without the arts and humanities, science is utterly meaningless and useless. Psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist makes an argument similar to the above in his book The Master and his Emissary. He focuses on the right and left hemispheres of the brain, explaining the difference in world views these two hemispheres represent. According to him, the right hemisphere processes information in a holistic way, while the left is detail-focused (McGilchrist, 2010, p. 51-52). While the neuroscience of “left” and “right” brained personalities has largely been debunked (Shmerling, 2019, paras. 10, 12), the most current work in neuroscience uses recent advances in neuroimaging technology to show that there is a comparable distinction between brain networks for higher cognition. These separate neural networks control taskoriented, or analytic, thinking versus socio-emotional, or empathic, thinking, and there is evidence that use of one network suppresses the other (Boyatzis, Rochford, & Jack, 2014, p. 1). McGilchrist’s assertion that in recent years the “left” mode of thinking, or more accurately the analytic neural network, has been given undue primacy over the “right,” or empathic neural network (p. 6-7), draws a direct parallel to what was discussed above in relation to education. As previously stated, only arts and humanities have the ability to look at things holistically, aligning with the world view of empathic thinking. The analytic mode of thinking takes details and looks at them in isolation, stripped of their context, much as science and engineering inherently must do. The analogy continues with the emphasis on the analytic neural network, which in this analogy is represented by STEM fields. This imbalance favoring the analytic side of our brains is not only undeserved but actively detrimental to society. As McGilchrist argues, all experiences
begin and end with an empathic world view (p. 6). Similarly, all scientific research begins and ends in a human context, whose social, emotional, and embodied aspects can only be fully understood through empathic reason; i.e., through the lens of the arts and humanities. Without context, our experiences are meaningless. Without context, science is meaningless. As I hope I have shown above, the arts and humanities allow us to create meaning from and give context to our experiences—one aspect of which might be scientific discoveries. Similar to the relationship between analytic and empathic modes of thinking, as McGilchrist defines them, all experiences must begin and end with the context given to us by the arts. In the area of education specifically, this order has been turned upside down, with undue emphasis being given to STEM fields in the form of monetary funding and perceived value. This STEM prominence has come to exist because of a cycle of “alarm/boom/bust” perpetuated by political leaders and lobbyists with the interest of maintaining U.S. superiority in times of perceived national security crises. However, these cycles have actually been shown to flood the scientist and engineer labor force so that military and technology leaders can have their pick of the brightest employees, leaving a surplus of workers and a “bust” phase for the market. Because of this STEM focus, researchers and educators in the arts and humanities have tried to market the arts as useful to scientists in very superficial ways. This is a strategy to retain funding by proving themselves useful to the primary subject areas of science and engineering. However, this approach is misguided. The arts and humanities must be recognized for their value in and of themselves. The “primacy” of certain subjects needs to be reassessed. Discoveries in science and engineering begin and end with discoveries about our humanity that must be addressed using the unique tools provided to us by the arts. In the short term, fighting for funding for the arts and humanities is undeniably essential. In the long term, we must strive to change the conversation
around why the arts must be funded and supported equally by the government, the public, and the education system as a whole.
References American Academy of Arts and Sciences. (2013). The heart of the matter. Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences. Retrieved from https://www.humanitiescommission.org /_pdf/hss_report.pdf Boyatzis, R. E., Rochford, K., & Jack, A. I. (2014). Antagonistic neural networks underlying differentiated leadership roles. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 8. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2014.00114 Butz, W., Kelly, T., Adamson, D., Bloom, G., Fossum, D., & Gross, M. (2004). Will the scientific and technology workforce meet the requirements of the Federal Government? RAND Corporation. https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/f423/5342b96a5c728b9baa96e8 bcddc9e1aec100.pdf?_ga=2.102550217.956322247.1606106531962263171.1606106531 Carnevale, A. P., Smith, N, & Melton, M. (2014). STEM. Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. Retrieved from https://cew.georgetown.edu/wpcontent/uploads/2014/11/stem-complete.pdf Carnevale, A. P., Strohl, J., & Melton, M. (2013). What's it worth?: The economic value of college majors. Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/10822/559309 Charette, R. N. (2013, August 30). The STEM crisis is a myth. IEEE Spectrum. Retrieved December 12, 2019, from https://spectrum.ieee.org/at-work/education/the-stem-crisis-isa-myth. Fayer, S., Lacey, A., & Watson, A. (2017). STEM occupations: Past, present, and future. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/spotlight/2017/science-
technology-engineering-and-mathematics-stem-occupations-past-present-andfuture/pdf/science-technology-engineering-and-mathematics-stem-occupations-pastpresent-and-future.pdf Finamore, J. J., Foley, D. M., Lan, F. L., Milan, L. B., Proudfoot, S., Rivers, E., & Selfa, L. (2013). Employment and educational characteristics of scientists and engineers. National Science Foundation. Retrieved from https://www.nsf.gov/statistics/infbrief/nsf13311/ nsf13311.pdf Freeman, R. (2005). Does globalization of the scientific/engineering workforce threaten U.S. economic leadership? National Bureau of Economic Research. doi: 10.3386/w11457 Land, M. H. (2013). Full STEAM ahead: The benefits of integrating the arts into STEM. Procedia Computer Science, 20, 547–552. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.procs.2013.09.317 Lorde, A. (1985). Poetry is Not a Luxury. The University of Texas at Austin. Retrieved from http://sites.utexas.edu/lsjcs/files/2017/07/Lorde-Poetry-Is-Not-a-Luxury.pdf McGilchrist, I. (2010). The master and his emissary: The divided brain and the making of the Western world. New Haven: Yale University Press. https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctvcb5c0t McGlone, P. (2018, February 12). Trump’s budget eliminates NEA, public TV and other cultural agencies. Again. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/arts-and-entertainment/wp/2018/02/12/trumpsbudget-eliminates-nea-public-tv-and-other-cultural-agencies-again/ National Science Board. (2018). Science and Engineering Indicators 2018. NSB-2018-1. Alexandria, VA: National Science Foundation. Retrieved from https://www.nsf.gov/statistics/2018/nsb20181/assets/nsb20181.pdf.
Salzman, H., & Lowell, B. L. L. (2007). Into the eye of the storm: Assessing the evidence on science and engineering education, quality, and workforce demand. SSRN Electronic Journal. doi: 10.2139/ssrn.1034801 Shmerling, R. H. (2019, November 8). Right brain/left brain, right? Retrieved December 12, 2019, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/right-brainleft-brain-right2017082512222. Teitelbaum, M. S. (2014). Falling behind?: boom, bust, and the global race for scientific talent. Princeton: Princeton University Press. doi: 10.2307/j.ctt5hhq5c.4 U. S. Department of Education. (2019, November 8). U.S. Department of Education advances Trump Administration's STEM investment priorities [Press release]. Retrieved from https://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/us-department-education-advances-trumpadministrations-stem-investment-priorities Vaughn, K., & Winner, E. (2000). SAT scores of students who study the arts: What we can and cannot conclude about the association. Journal of Aesthetic Education, 34(3/4), 77-89. https://doi.org/10.2307/3333638 Yakman, G. (2008). STEAM education: An overview of creating a model of integrative education. ResearchGate. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/ 327351326_STEAM_Education_an_overview_of_creating_a_model_of_integrative_edu cation
Fact or Fable: The Inaccurate Representation of Female Victims and Perpetrators in Auschwitz in Out of the Ashes by Annabella DeBernardo Abstract This paper will focus on the flaws in the representation of women victims and perpetrators of the Holocaust in Western media by comparing such representations to historical sources that depict the same people and events. In particular, this paper will dissect the 2003 movie Out of the Ashes, an adaptation of Gisella Perl’s memoir I was a doctor in Auschwitz. Gisella Perl’s memoir differs considerably from its film adaptation in the portrayal of the morality and violence of women in Auschwitz. In order to appeal to an American audience, the film alters Perl and her fellow inmates to be at once more innocent and more altruistic than Perl describes in her memoir, instead representing them as perfect victims with little agency and no flaws of their own. Similarly, the film also minimizes or even omits the sadism of the female SS guards in Auschwitz and chooses to leave much of the sexual and gendered violence that survivors of Auschwitz endured off camera. The flawed representation of female morality in Auschwitz in the film Out of the Ashes helps to facilitate a classic good-versus-evil story in which the complicated moral and social dynamics of real camp life are ignored. By portraying both the victims and the perpetrators of the Holocaust in an overly simple way, Out of the Ashes perpetrates a mythic understanding of the Holocaust rather than a historical one.
The Holocaust has become a fixture in historically-inspired media in America. Depictions of the Holocaust in film range from grim to humorous and vary wildly in their accuracy to historical events. Western films often inaccurately represent women’s roles in the Holocaust. Female victims in these films are often perfected in their character and purified by their suffering, whereas female perpetrators are delegated to henchmen or erased entirely. The 2003 film Out of the Ashes (directed by Joseph Sargent) is one such example of this flawed representation of women. Out of the Ashes is an adaptation of Gisella Perl’s memoir, I was a doctor in Auschwitz, first published in 1948. Gisella Perl was a Hungarian, Jewish obstetrician who was deported to Auschwitz after the German occupation of Hungary. While imprisoned in Auschwitz, Nazi guards forced her to work as a camp doctor for the women in her block. In her memoir, Perl describes in vivid detail the sadistic policies that governed Auschwitz and the many
DeBernardo 2 horrors she endured while attempting to save women’s lives. An adaptation of I as a doctor in Auschwitz, the 2003 film Out of the Ashes, differs considerably from Perl’s memoir in its portrayal of the morality of women in Auschwitz. In order to appeal to an American audience, the film alters Perl and her fellow inmates to be both more innocent and more altruistic than Perl describes in her memoir. Similarly, the film minimizes or even does not show the undisguised cruelty of the female SS guards in Auschwitz; in particular, it misrepresents Irma Grese’s obvious sexual sadism by portraying her as an extension of Dr. Mengele, rather than her own, unique evil. It also adapts several of the victim’s anecdotes that Perl tells, notably her stories of Charlotte Junger and of Yolanda, to give each concrete endings that, while bittersweet, are decidedly more optimistic than the real endings. These changes allow the classic good-versusevil narrative that is common to American Holocaust films to dominate Out of the Ashes, which leads to a mythic, rather than historically accurate, representation of the Holocaust. Female perspectives of the Holocaust, in particular, have always been underrepresented and misinterpreted in media and popular culture. Perl’s memoir was one of the first Holocaust memoirs to be published; however, it was not widely read and went out of print shortly after its publication. I was a doctor in Auschwitz has only come back into print recently, as the demand for gender-specific study of the Holocaust has increased. Aleksandra Ubertowska describes how, even in the years immediately following the Holocaust, public representations of women’s experiences were “a mere complement” to “the perspective of the courageous male hero,” which the public accepted more readily (162). Ubertowska comments that stereotypically, women survivors of the Holocaust have been portrayed to the public by both historians and media as “passive, emotional figures . . . condemned to the role of defenceless [sic] victims” (165). The stereotype of female Holocaust survivors as defenseless victims has led to a common moral
DeBernardo 3 representation of Jewish women in fictional accounts of the Holocaust which persists even into the present. The Jew-as-Victim trope, in which Jewish women are the ultimate victims and purified through suffering trauma, features heavily in much Holocaust media, regardless of the truth of female survivors’ experiences (Rothe 15-16). In order to reinforce this trope, Holocaust media rarely shows prisoner-on-prisoner violence or even a survivor’s own agency in the face of traumatic choices when these survivors are women. Clearly, the public’s tolerance for difficult stories, especially women’s stories that do not feature them in the passive victim’s roles, has always been small. Out of the Ashes bastardizes Perl’s memoir in a similar way, making changes to fit her experience within such tropes, which allows the public to better tolerate her story. Auschwitz was the largest of the Nazi concentration camps, where the Germans systematically exterminated almost 1.1 million prisoners deemed racially or otherwise inferior. According to the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, Auschwitz was divided into more than 40 subcamps in order to accommodate and organize such a large population, with the largest being Auschwitz II-Birkenau, which could support a population of up to 125,000 inmates (“Auschwitz II-Birkenau”). Conditions in the prisoner barracks were awful, with severe overcrowding, pest infestations, little access to fresh water, and inadequate food rations. These poor conditions were designed to encourage the spread of infectious disease among the camp population, which was intended to further dehumanize and humiliate inmates. A medical system existed, but medical care in the camps was limited for many prisoners because of the massive need. Camp hospitals were organized under SS doctors, with many duties and procedures in infirmaries being performed by prisoner functionaries (“Camp Hospitals”). Gisella Perl was one of these functionaries, having been recruited to continue her medical practice after her deportation to Auschwitz. Perl’s specialty of obstetrics before the war gave her special interest in the policies
DeBernardo 4 regarding pregnancy and childbirth in Auschwitz. According to David Patterson, these policies ranged from requiring abortions in Jewish women before three months of pregnancy to killing infants after they were born in order to allow the mother to return to work; however, by the time Perl was interned at Auschwitz, the policy was to immediately execute any woman found pregnant, or if she had given birth recently, to exterminate both her and her infant (171). In order to preserve these women’s lives, Perl performed hundreds of abortions on women in her block into the very late stages of pregnancy. She was troubled by this practice, as it conflicted with her Jewish belief in the sanctity of life, writing in her memoir that “childbirth was still . . . the greatest miracle” and that with every abortion she performed “it was again and again my own child whom I killed” (Perl 57). Nevertheless, she continued performing abortions for the greater good of the women in her block. Perl repeatedly describes her moral conflict over the abortions she performed, beginning with her discussion titled “Childbirth in Camp C” and continuing intermittently until the end of the memoir. However, the film Out of the Ashes delves little into the flexible morality that Perl was forced to adopt while interned at Auschwitz, choosing instead to represent Perl as at first naive to Auschwitz’s policy regarding pregnancy and then as steadfastly certain of the morality of her choice to abort the fetuses of the women in her block. By representing Perl as naïve— when in reality she had witnessed the extermination of babies by SS guards before even entering the gates of Auschwitz—Out of the Ashes preserves her innocence and allows her to act as an idealized version of herself. This representation denies Perl the agency to make her own choices; instead of having all the information and having to decide whether to uphold her previous moral standard in the face of the consequent death of her patients, she is forced into upholding Auschwitz’s policy through her own ignorance. While Perl’s naivety in Out of the Ashes does
DeBernardo 5 preserve her purity as a victim and makes her fit more readily into the common stereotype of the female Holocaust survivor, the inaccurate representation of Perl completely erases the moral quandary discussed at length in I was a doctor in Auschwitz. After Perl and the audience of Out of the Ashes learn of the fate of pregnant women in the camps, Perl immediately changes her stance on abortion with little self-reflection. In the film’s retelling, Perl even refuses to refer to the lives she aborted as “babies,” as she repeatedly did in her memoir, calling them instead “fetuses,” and correcting other characters who do not use this term (Perl; Sargent). Perl’s use of impersonal language to refer to abortions in the film points to a certain amount of her own denial of the morally-grey decisions she made when aborting lateterm pregnancies, but it also allows her character to seem certain and even defensive of her choices when explaining herself to others. While in reality, Perl did feel that she was morally obligated to perform abortions on the women in her block, she always uses personal, emotional language when describing the procedures in I was a doctor in Auschwitz. She writes how she “loved those newborn babies” when referring to the pregnancies she terminated, and how each time she did perform an abortion, it was “[her] own child” whom she had “destroy[ed]” (Perl 57). Her memoir makes it clear that she does not deny the potential moral complications that come along with this decision but instead takes full responsibility for the actions she was forced to take for the survival of others. She reckoned with her own guilt over her immoral actions by relying on religion, saying that she “prayed to God to help me save the mother or I would never touch a pregnant woman again” (Perl 58). The film’s representation of Perl does not allow the character to evolve morally in the same way that she does in her memoir. Despite the obvious moral quandary she faces while in Auschwitz, her character remains heroic and pure; she is just as sure of her initial beliefs as before being interned. While this portrayal allows for a cleaner
DeBernardo 6 narrative that is easier to sell on television, it also completely erases the struggle of Perl and other women who were forced to adapt their pre-trauma morals for the sake of their own or others’ survival. Instead of Holocaust media such as Out of the Ashes allowing women in the camps to be full characters, with human flaws and real growth, they are reduced to perfection– perfect heroes and perfect victims, with no morally-grey actions or thoughts. The representation of women as purified through suffering, rather than as survivors with real, human flaws, encourages modern trauma survivors, especially women, not to come forward with their morally or emotionally difficult stories. After all, these stories are not celebrated: they are buried. The risk of social judgement, shame, and further emotional pain to women who speak out about their experiences ensure that women’s real stories will remain closely-guarded secrets. Media that cleans up real stories of suffering like Out of the Ashes further coddles the American audience, making sure that they will never be ready to hear the real stories that arise from trauma. Perl is not the only inmate that Out of the Ashes portrays as overtly good; in fact, the writers and director represent the inmate population as a whole as cohesive, altruistic, and above all, innocent. Like other Holocaust media, Out of the Ashes represents women prisoners as victims without real agency—innocent despite suffering—a narrative that the public accepts more readily than the flawed woman character. Historical analysis reveals that women victims were likely not as defenseless as fiction likes to portray them. Society still functions in survival situations, and the power dynamics between prisoners remain intact. In her paper, Anna Hájková claims that “prisoner society [is] a society in its own right, rather than . . . a deviant form of social organization” (504). With this in mind, the abuse inmates faced in Auschwitz came not only from guards but also from fellow prisoners as they navigated this complicated moral system trying to survive. Theft, sexual barter, and infighting—all activities that are typically immoral—
DeBernardo 7 were common practices among prisoners in ghettos and concentration camps (Hájková). Perl describes these phenomena in her memoir, from the “organization” (a euphemism for theft) of needed supplies from stockrooms and other prisoners, to the bartering for these supplies in the latrine using sexual favors, to the outright attack of other prisoners (Perl 54). She even describes how the “most brutal fellow prisoners” would beat favored prisoners who had obtained supplies like aluminum cups to drink from just to “rob them of their water and their cup” to survive (Perl 54). The prisoners Perl describes are far from the innocent and defenseless victims that Out of the Ashes imagines; they used whatever tools they had to fight to survive. Prisoner-on-prisoner violence is conspicuously absent in Out of the Ashes, despite the clear evidence for its existence. This erasure, of course, preserves the innocence of the women it represents. Instead of showing women prisoners as using whatever agency they still possessed to survive, they show them as completely defenseless to Nazi cruelty. This representation supports Rothe’s “Jew-as-Victim” trope, since the victimization of women prisoners in Auschwitz is not complicated by the existence of prisoners acting as perpetrators of violence against their own people. In addition, the absence of violence or even a real struggle for survival in the women’s camp helps preserve the stereotype of women victims as “passive,” which complies with the public’s accepted image of the female Holocaust survivor as proposed by Ubertowska (165). Out of the Ashes plays into these stereotypes of the purified female victim in order to keep audiences comfortable. By simplifying camp dynamics in this way, Out of the Ashes inadvertently pushes an inaccurate—almost mythic—understanding of the Holocaust onto its audience. Instead of accurately representing the genocide’s horrors in all their facets, the movie asserts a classic good-versus-evil tale, where victims are reduced to one-dimensional victim archetypes instead of the complicated human survivors that they were.
DeBernardo 8 The accuracy in representations of Holocaust perpetrators also suffers from the reduction of history to a good-versus-evil narrative. Women perpetrators, especially, are inaccurately represented in many films due to the prevalent essentialist belief that women are less capable of violence than men. In Out of the Ashes, Irma Grese, the highest-ranking female officer in Auschwitz, is the best example of this misrepresentation. She is shown as an insane, gunwielding henchman to Dr. Mengele, rather than the “depraved, cruel, imaginative sexual pervert” that Perl describes in I was a doctor in Auschwitz (45). In the film, while Grese is definitely shown to be violent and prone to cruelty, she remains rather playful in her dialogue and actions compared to the representation of male SS officers, to whom she maintains a childlike obedience. For example, when a young woman steps out of line during a roll call, Grese sneaks up behind her, drawing her gun, before asking the male supervising officer what he would like her to do (Sargent). The violence that Grese’s character flirts with in this scene and throughout the film is rarely shown, only threatened and then promptly stopped by another, usually male, character. When Grese’s cruelty is demonstrated, she always uses a ranged weapon, physically and metaphorically keeping her hands clean. This depiction differs considerably from Perl’s description of Grese as a “pervert” who “picked out the most beautiful young women and slashed their breasts open with . . . her whip” in order to see Perl operate on the infected cuts without anesthetics, which she watched with “complete sexual paroxysm” (Perl 45). The depiction of Grese in the film not only reduces her to a one-dimensional villain who is much less cruel than she was in reality, but it also minimizes her responsibility for her own cruelty by making her second to the men who command her. The representation of female oppressors as subservient to and less violent than male oppressors is in itself essentialist and gives a dangerous amount of leeway to the truly cruel, evil women in history like Grese. By
DeBernardo 9 minimizing Grese’s violence and sadism, Out of the Ashes avoids showing the unique horror of women oppressors during the Holocaust, a topic not readily shown in fiction. Instead of having Grese be a full character, Out of the Ashes substitutes a toned-down version of Grese as an example of the female oppressor that acts only as an extension of male oppressors, a concept which audiences are more familiar and comfortable with. In particular, the film avoids showing any of the sexual sadism that Perl describes, an element of Grese’s character that gives her an internal motive for violence for its own sake. This decision makes sense to keep audiences comfortable; accepting Grese’s sexual sadism requires audiences to question the idea that women are inherently less violent and perverted than men, since it provides a counterexample. By avoiding the truly difficult, uncomfortable stories like Grese’s, Out of the Ashes not only loses a good portion of the horror that Perl describes—it perpetuates a simplified view of gender roles in order to promote a simpler, good-versus-evil narrative that employs the traditional, male image of villains. In order to protect its good-versus-evil narrative of the Holocaust, Out of the Ashes must, of course, show good’s victory over evil. To this end, the film tends to embellish the individual stories of people Perl’s memoir discusses, going so far as to force a completely false happy ending onto an otherwise irredeemably sad story or otherwise omit the ending entirely. A conspicuous example of the latter is the story of Charlotte Junger, to which both the film and the memoir devote significant attention. In I was a doctor in Auschwitz, Junger, a teenage girl from the same village as Perl, is given poison by her father, who intends to kill himself and his family before they are deported to Auschwitz. Being in good physical condition, the dose is not enough to kill Junger, who instead reverts to a childlike state where “unguarded [by Perl], she . . . began to dance” (Perl 39). At Auschwitz, Junger is taken to the infirmary, where Perl cares for her until
DeBernardo 10 Dr. Mengele hears of the “dancing girl” and takes her away for his own amusement (Perl 39). After several days, Mengele “tire[s] of Charlotte’s dancing” and sends her to her death (Perl 39). The film offers the same events, with a few key changes. Instead of discovering her at the infirmary, Mengele discovers Junger dancing and saves her from being shot by a guard for her behavior (Sargent). Most notably, though, instead of Mengele sending Junger to death shortly after he discovers her, after her rescue nothing of Junger is shown on screen again (Sargent). By omitting the tragic ending and leaving the audience to wonder what happened to Junger, the film lessens both the horror and the impact of the anecdote in the memoir. Decoupled from the ending of Junger’s story, Mengele’s character almost seems sympathetic. By repeatedly cutting off the stories in which the ending is overtly tragic, Out of the Ashes preserves the idea that good conquers evil by failing to show the many stories in the memoir where evil wins. In doing so, the film not only misrepresents the memoir but cheapens the stories themselves. Rather than the anecdotes in Perl’s memoir being used to bear witness on behalf of those who lost their lives to cruelty, they are used to push a simple idea that good conquers all and that in doing so, evil can not only be overcome, but ignored. In this way, Out of the Ashes gives audiences permission to gloss over the difficult, horrifying stories that have come out of the Holocaust and focus only on the heroism of the survivors. By ignoring the many stories that ended tragically, Out of the Ashes and similar fiction promote an incorrect image of the Holocaust as a trial for certain people, rather than as the life-ending tragedy it was. As a result, the film erases the stories of all those who did not survive as somehow less relevant than those who did. Of course, Out of the Ashes does not only ignore the endings of Perl’s anecdotes that do not fit the idealized narrative; it also modifies the anecdotes to give them desired happy endings. The most egregious example of these modifications is the story of a young woman named
DeBernardo 11 Yolanda in I was a doctor in Auschwitz but renamed Leiku in Out of the Ashes. Yolanda was a young woman whom Perl helped with fertility issues before the war, and she came to Auschwitz pregnant with the baby that Perl helped her conceive. In the memoir, Perl helps to hide Yolanda’s pregnancy until she goes into labor. After the birth, Perl “hid her child for two days, unable to destroy him” before, fearing discovery, she “strangled him and buried his body under a mountain of corpses” (Perl 58). Yolanda is never mentioned again. In the film, events transpire very differently: Leiku asks after Perl after having contractions and requests a late-term abortion. Perl induces labor and the baby, who is born alive, is smothered immediately after its birth. Perl justifies this action by saying Leiku “will have another child, a free child” (Sargent). This prediction comes true, and after the liberation of the camps, Perl meets Leiku in New York and delivers her son. The addition of a happy ending to Yolanda’s story cheapens the power of the anecdote, changing its theme from one about the greater good and Perl’s moral sacrifice for the survival of others into one that only emphasizes the survival of women to bear future children. Additionally, it also neatly resolves any moral ramifications for Perl’s character by giving her an easy justification for her actions. In reality, Perl, like many others who were forced into difficult choices for their own and others’ survival, remained haunted by her actions and the trauma she had endured to the point where she “did not want to live” and attempted suicide shortly after the war (Perl 120). Out of the Ashes repeatedly misrepresents the characters and stories of I was a doctor in Auschwitz in order to keep its audience comfortable. The film represents women prisoners as innocent victims without any personal agency, a common trope of female Holocaust victims, despite much evidence in Perl’s memoir of her and her fellow prisoners’ ability to maneuver in a world with looser moral guidelines. The film also misrepresents female perpetrators, assigning
DeBernardo 12 their violence as secondary and lesser than the male violence that happened during the Holocaust. The film alters stories of these victims and perpetrators in order to remove the harsh endings and details that force audiences to examine their own morals and the effect of trauma on morality. In doing so, the movie’s theme becomes simple: good people can overcome any evil. Unfortunately, the theme of the film has become completely disconnected with the memoir’s intention to bear witness to the horror of Auschwitz and honor those who did not survive. Instead of reflecting the quiet, vivid witness to Auschwitz’s horrors that the memoir provides, the film cheapens Perl’s experience into a simple tale of good-versus-evil to make it more palatable for an American audience. As a result, it not only misrepresents the main themes of the memoir but perpetuates the mythic, rather than historical, interpretation of the Holocaust in Western media. This mythic interpretation, in which no morally-grey characters truly exist, erases the many real stories of survivors who did have to adapt their morals to survive. Women survivors, especially, suffer from this misrepresentation, as media and audiences are less tolerant of flawed women than flawed men. Despite not being the perfected victims that the media likes to portray, these women deserve to have their stories told.
DeBernardo 13 Works Cited Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum. “Auschwitz II-Birkenau.” Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum, 2020, http://auschwitz.org/ en/history/auschwitz-ii/. ---. “Camp Hospitals.” Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum, 2020, http://auschwitz.org/ en/history/camp-hospitals/. Hájková, Anna. “Sexual Barter in Times of Genocide: Negotiating the Sexual Economy of the Theresienstadt Ghetto.” Signs, vol. 38, 2013, pp. 503–533. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1086/668607. Patterson, David. “The Nazi Assault on the Jewish Soul through the Murder of the Jewish Mother.” Different Horrors, Same Hell: Gender and the Holocaust, edited by Myrna Goldenberg and Amy H. Shapiro, University of Washington Press, 2013, pp. 163–176. Perl, Gisella. I Was a Doctor in Auschwitz. International Universities Press, 1948. Rothe, Anne. Popular Trauma Culture: Selling the Pain of Others in the Mass Media. Rutgers University Press, 2011. Sargent, Joseph, director. Out of the Ashes. Showtime, 2003. Ubertowska, Aleksandra. “‘Masculine’/‘Feminine’ in Autobiographical Accounts of the Warsaw Ghetto: Comparative Analysis of the Memoirs of Cywia Lubetkin and Icchak Cukierman.” Women and the Holocaust: New Perspectives and Challenges, edited by Andrea Pető et al., Central European University Press, WARSZAWA, 2015, pp. 161-182.
Cleveland: Confronting Rail Transportation Issues in a Rust Belt City By James FitzGibbon In 1910, Cleveland was the sixth largest city in the country (Spangler et al. 8). Downtown was crowded with workers on their way to the office towers or steel mills, and shoppers on their way to the major department stores. Supporting this network was a system of streetcars and interurbans that brought citizens in from miles outside of the city center, transporting over 200 million riders per year (Spangler et al. 8). By 1960, this rail system all but ceased to exist, and Cleveland was in the beginnings of an urban decline that is almost unrivaled in American history. While the decline of Cleveland is not tied to the decline of its light rail system, the loss of a major aspect of public transit did nothing to help the city. Yet, Cleveland remains one of the most centralized-decentralized cities in the nation. In other words, there are relatively few important business districts that serve a metropolitan area spread out over several counties (Lendel et al.). Therefore, public transportation remains an essential part of the city’s landscape, as people must be transported within the Northeast Ohio region. With light rail being shown to contribute beneficially to cities’ economies, should Cleveland expand its light rail system? In short, no; the demographics of the city and financial issues create too high of a barrier to construct/extend the RTA light rail system. In order to address this question more fully, it is important to first understand the history and reasons for the decline of Cleveland’s original rail system, asking whether or not these reasons are still considerations today. In exploring this question, it is important to understand the differences between light rail, streetcars, and interurbans. While light rail and streetcar are often used interchangeably, in theory they represent two different systems. Light rail systems are generally grade-separated
trains that occasionally run on streets, often in dedicated lanes. They also can include subway components, and typically have larger train sets than streetcars (Malouff). Streetcar systems typically do not have grade separated lines for their entire routes, and have smaller vehicles more akin to buses on rails. There are streetcar systems that have lines that could be considered light rail transit, but the vehicles used generally prevent that designation (Malouff). Lastly, there are interurbans, which are intercity train systems that have some light rail qualities (such as single car trains) (Middleton). These distinctions will be important to note throughout the paper. It is also important to consider the previous rail transport companies that crisscrossed the city. The first, and largest, of these companies was the Cleveland Electric Railway (CR), which was created by the merger of the previous Cleveland Electric Railway Company and the Cleveland City Railway Company (Semsel 53). The new CR owned two-hundred and twenty miles of tracks that extended across the Greater Cleveland area. At the time of CR’s formation, streetcars were already a critical part of the city’s infrastructure, and one judge even stated that " the [streetcar], which tends more than almost any other material influence to make the residents of country and city a homogeneous people, is a proper vehicle on the city street,” (Hambley 3). State Representative Stephen Hambley, who wrote his dissertation, The Vanguard of Regional Infrastructure, about the Cleveland electric railway system, described the system as the “economic and social link” of the region. Yet, the company became beleaguered with financial troubles in the 1930s and 40s. This led to the creation of the Cleveland Transit System, an act that began the decline of streetcars in Cleveland. The other two primary systems in Cleveland during the early 20th century were not
streetcar systems, but interurbans. These light rail vehicles were more akin to commuter trains; they travelled much further from the center city than the traditional streetcar network, often on their own dedicated rails. The older of the two networks was the Lake Shore Electric Railway (LSE), which ran from Cleveland to Toledo by way of Sandusky and Fremont. In the Cleveland area, the rail system passed through the western suburbs of Cuyahoga County and Lorain County, with stops in Rocky River, Beach Park (present-day Avon Lake), and Lorain. (Harwood et al. 5). Often, business on the line came from commuters in these suburbs, with the Cleveland to Toledo rider being less common. The other system was the Shaker Heights Rapid Transit Company, originally known as the Cleveland Interurban Railroad. This interurban, stretching to the eastern suburb of Shaker Heights, was built by the Van Swearingen brothers to connect their planned suburb to the city center (Encyclopedia of Cleveland History, “Shaker Heights Rapid Transit”). Filmmaker Brad Masi, whose documentary Streetcar City focuses on the development of the streetcar suburbs, lists this line as a catalyst for the development of suburbia, as “folks could jet downtown in 20 minutes.” The Shaker Heights interurban was expanded several times throughout its existence, and it now stretches to Green Road on one line and Warrensville Center Road on the other (Dubelko). Of the three primary light rail systems in Cleveland during the early 20th century, this is the only surviving example. While Cleveland’s light rail companies experienced their heyday during the 1920s with over 450 million riders per year, thirty years later the system was almost nonexistent. The decline of the Cleveland Railway network and the Lake Shore Electric were due to several different factors, some unique to each line. The LSE, the first to fold, was severely harmed by the introduction of the automobile. As Representative Hambley notes:
the emergence of the private automobile, jitney buses and commercial trucking hindered the streetcar and interurban rail systems starting in the late 1910s and accelerated in the 1920s. As cities further developed and expanded into new neighborhoods in the 1920s, the rail system of streetcars proved to be too expensive and too over-regulated by municipal governments to warrant the investments of the private sector (Hambley, Personal Interview). Essentially, the automobile was more valued in a competitive economy than the streetcar. Without municipal ownership, the economics of the situation dictated that the company would soon become obsolete. With the onset of the Great Depression in 1929, ridership took a fatal blow, and the company was forced into bankruptcy in 1933 (Harwood et al. 125). In May of 1938, with no suitable buyer and a decline in freight service, the LSE lines were abandoned, ending intercity interurban travel along the western lakefront (Harwood et al. 141). Separate from the LSE’s decline, the decline of the Cleveland streetcar system was far more political. CR’s license to use the roads of the city was on a twenty-five year basis. In 1935, once the original 1910 lease expired, the City of Cleveland authorized only one-year leases, as the city wanted to take over the rail system and modernize it (Spangler et al. 9). CR and the city negotiated for several years before settling on a buyout price, and on April 28, 1942, Cleveland took full ownership of the streetcar system. The new organization, the Cleveland Transit System (CTS), in 1943 “drafted a postwar transit modernization program that proposed using existing railroad rights of way to eliminate surface streetcars inside the city limits” (Souther 180). In 1949, the plan was adopted, and construction on the modern day Red Line heavy-rail route began. Five years later, the last streetcar was taken off Madison Avenue,
ending the era of streetcars in Cleveland (Cleveland Memory Project, “Spring Garden Avenue Cleveland Transit System’s Last Streetcar”).
The reasons for the decline of streetcars in Cleveland are varied. For one, the city wanted to construct a major rapid transit and subway network that would have increased passenger capacity. The city argued this would be cheaper than modernizing the entire streetcar system, as the rapid transit line could be built for only $22.5 million (Souther 181). Additionally, Cleveland had begun to spread outwards, with suburban commuters driving into the city. The issue that arises, as Brad Masi mentions, is “one of density. . . . Cleveland, since the 1950’s, has gone through a process of chronic de-densification- moving from a city of almost a million residents to around 370,000 today.” This de-densification made streetcars no longer viable, as many commuters wanted faster transportation (a la modern light rail) to the urban core. The proposed subway system would do just that. However, despite bonds for the subway system being passed, concerns over the downtown portion’s $35 million cost (which ballooned to about $50 million) led to the system's defeat (Souther 189). Therefore, a void left by the destruction of the streetcar system, which was supposed to be filled by subways, remains to this day. However, the history of the Shaker Heights rapid line was quite different. Several factors kept the lines running as an independent transit company well into the 1970s, chief amongst them the lack of a freeway running through Shaker Heights. In the 1950s, Cuyahoga County planned a freeway network that would include the Clark Freeway, a superhighway running right down Shaker Boulevard. This freeway was cancelled in the mid-1960s due to environmental concerns, with the proposed path through Shaker Lakes receiving much opposition (Richmond). Therefore, the commute time downtown from Shaker Heights was not reduced, with both automobile and light rail commute times remaining around twenty minutes or less during rush hours (Masi). To this day, there is no expressway or boulevard that directly connects Shaker Heights to Cleveland. Therefore, the Shaker Heights lines were able to provide
a useful means of transport for those who lived within Shaker Heights and the surrounding suburbs. By the mid-1970s, transit systems began to be regionalized across the United States. This regionalization was argued to create easier access to state and federal money and increase transit efficiency in urban areas. After a seventeen-day strike by Cleveland Transit System workers and increasing ridership issues attributed to a declining system, as well as increasing organizational issues caused by several city-based independent transit systems, Cuyahoga County decided to regionalize. In 1974, the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA) was formed, and the “individual city lines were all consolidated into a regional system” (Masi). These networks included the Cleveland Transit System’s rapid transit line and the Shaker Heights light rail lines, renamed the Red Line and the Blue/Green Lines. Capital improvements began, with the purchasing of new railcars for all three rail lines and the rebuilding of stations over the next several decades (Greater Cleveland RTA, “History”). In 1996, the RTA opened an extension of the light rail lines to the Cuyahoga River and Lake Erie waterfront, connecting Tower City Center and Public Square with the Flats East Bank, the thenCleveland Municipal Stadium, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (Naymik). While the line had high expectations in the 1990s, ridership has not met those expectations, and with the exception of special events in the stadium or in the Flats East Bank, the line is rarely used, with “400 riders per day” (Naymik). Since then, there has been no expansion of any rail transportation in the City of Cleveland. However, the city has continued to sprawl since the 1950s, leading to many areas not being served by rail transit. With issues such as climate change and urban sprawl coming more into focus, there has been an increasing amount of new transit construction in other cities around
the nation. Light rail has led the way during this new era of transit, with cities such as Portland, Denver, and Los Angeles expanding/constructing light rail systems (Levinson et al. 74-75). In contrast, Cleveland’s transit system has been shrinking, even though the metro area’s population has been relatively steady since the 1980s. If Cleveland were to follow the lead of other American cities there are several factors that must be considered, including ridership, funding, and the change in demographics that led to the decline of the original streetcar system. Before I discuss the challenges and benefits of a potential light rail system in Cleveland, I would like to illustrate the importance of this question. Mass transit in general is a key institution in local society, allowing for the transportation of workers across regional areas (White). In many cases, those most affected by public transit issues are those who need government assistance. Gillian White, in her article regarding the importance of public transit, states that in “many cities, the areas with the shoddiest access to public transit are the most impoverished,” (White). As the job of the government, according to the Constitution, is to “promote the general welfare,” taking action to lift those out of poverty is a must. Anything else would represent a violation of ethics through the violation of the national charter. One of the issues White mentions is the lack of geographic reach for transit, leaving those without cars in an impossible situation. In Cleveland, this is a major issue, as there are neighborhoods within the city where car ownership is below 70% (Lendel et al.). Additionally, some lines can take an inefficient amount of time to travel to the city center from their endpoint, a commute time that has a disproportionate effect on the impoverished who may not be able to afford childcare or other time-conscious services. The RTA estimates that 20,000 residents depend on mass transit for commuting to work (Greater Cleveland RTA, “Overview”). It is clear that light rail would increase overall access by increasing the capacity of transit lines, allowing for more efficient
transportation across a larger regional area, and providing that efficient transportation at a low cost. This research can be justified as important to society, as improving access and efficiency of public transportation has been shown to positively impact those who need these public services the most. With regard to a potential expansion of Cleveland’s light rail system, there are several factors to consider. The first is whether or not the issues that doomed the original streetcar network exist today. One of the more profound differences between Cleveland today and the Cleveland of the early 20th century is the physical size of the metro area. Cleveland is far less dense today than it was during the streetcars of yesteryear due to “rapid suburbanization and corresponding population decline in Cleveland” (Masi). The central neighborhoods of the city have been impacted the most, with neighborhoods such as Fairfax losing over 80% of their population since the 1950s (Lay et al.). This decline in both urban population and population density was, as Masi stated, one of the primary causes of the decline of the original Cleveland streetcar system, and continues to this day. Therefore, an extension of the rail system must take this decentralization into account. For example, Toronto, which has perhaps the most successful streetcar system in North America, is also one of the most densely populated cities in the continent. Portland and Seattle are other examples of densely populated cities with streetcars (DH Toronto Staff). Less densely populated cities, such as Cincinnati, have had more of an issue establishing a successful streetcar system. Yet, comparable less-dense cities, such as Denver, Pittsburgh, and Minneapolis, have found success with light rail systems, which are able to “move riders more efficiently across greater distances” when compared to streetcar systems (Levinson et al. 67). As such, keeping the failures of the original Cleveland streetcar system in
mind, it would be more preferable to establish a suburban light rail line, which would be far more befitting of Cleveland’s population density than a traditional streetcar line. One drawback of light rail, however, is its expense. Light rail systems cost considerably more to construct than the average streetcar or bus line, with the cost of the mile-and-a-half long Waterfront Line at $70.9 million dollars alone (Greater Cleveland RTA, “How the Waterfront Line Was Constructed”). The cost of Boston’s Green Line Extension, a current project, is estimated at “$490 million per mile,” (Levy). As such, funding is a key item to discuss when planning any light rail system. With the financial crisis currently striking the RTA, this discussion becomes even more important. The RTA has had funding issues for years, stemming from the fact that the State of Ohio has spent far less on public transit than other states. In fact, Ohio ranks 45th in the nation on per capita public transit spending (LaFleur). Considering that the state has three of the thirty largest metropolises in America, this is a striking statistic. When examining local transit funding issues, the effects of underfunded/mismanaged public transit is clear. An Ohio railroad and mass transit advocacy group, All Aboard Ohio, estimated that the RTA has a “$254 million gap in capital program funding needed to bring RTA bus and rail equipment and facilities up to a state of good repair” (Prendergast). Therefore, the RTA has fallen into a state of financial emergency, being forced to cut back service in order to maintain the current system. These cuts have impacted both the service frequency and maintenance of the rail lines, with All Aboard Ohio declaring that rail transit is endangered in Cleveland (Prendergast). With forty-year-old rolling stock and poor levels of infrastructure quality (the RTA has been “cannibalizing” existing rail cars for parts instead of purchasing new ones), the RTA is not in the best position to provide the funding for a light rail extension (Prendergast). If the state or federal government were to provide funds for
a capital improvement of that magnitude, then the RTA would do well to explore a light rail extension, but with the agency’s current financial situation, any form of light rail extension would be cost prohibitive. Assuming that funding was to be secured for a light rail line, the next issue that planners should consider is ridership. This is an issue that is known to Cleveland; the Waterfront Line, connecting Tower City to the Flats Entertainment District and the football stadium, has fallen far below its initial ridership projections, to the point of being dubbed a “Ghost Train” (Naymik). If a new light rail line were to be constructed and maintained, it must follow a line that runs to the outer suburbs, where those who work in the city of Cleveland live. Specifically, the line should be focused toward the western suburbs, as there are fewer jobs located within those suburbs that would not require a vehicle to reach. The eastern suburbs generally have more entry-level jobs within their own cities, as well as two existing light rail lines (Lendel et al.). Regardless, with 100,000 workers in downtown Cleveland, there must be a way to efficiently serve these potential riders (Exner). As long as it is more efficient to drive downtown and park, any rail line will have little impact. Yet, an opportunity exists to take advantage of downtown commuters using transit by efficiently utilizing a park-and-ride system, in which a large parking area is built near a rail station to allow commuters a carless trip downtown. This system could be realistically implemented using the current RTA light rail system. For example, the Green Line could be extended to a park-and-ride at Beachwood Mall along I-271, and the Blue Line to I-480. These park-and-ride lines would echo the more successful light rail systems in the U.S., including Denver, Los Angeles, and St. Louis, which primarily serve commuters through suburban stations (many of which have park-and-ride components) (Duncan et al. 155-156). Again, without a vast amount of funding, this scenario is
at best a distant possibility and at worst a pipe dream, and any light rail expansion of that magnitude would be in the range of several hundred million dollars. Given the issues of population density, transit agency funding, and construction costs, and that the issues of funding and demographics led to the failure of the original Cleveland streetcar system, the RTA should not endeavor to construct a new light rail line. While a short expansion, such as a one-mile extension of the Blue or Green Lines to a park-and-ride at I-480 or Beachwood Mall, should be considered, the RTA has more pressing concerns at the moment. Additionally, with the issues of population decline and urban sprawl in the Cleveland metro area, as well as the sufficiency provided by the current highway network for suburban commuters, the benefit of a new light rail line would likely not exceed the cost. Instead, the RTA should consider capital improvements on its existing system, such as rebuilding stations, ordering new train sets, constructing new bus stops, and other items that can create a higher quality system. Others may argue, however, that many Midwestern cities with similar qualities to Cleveland have constructed successful light rail systems. One study specifically points out the economic benefit of St. Louis’s Metrolink, a light rail system serving a city with fewer people than Cleveland (Garrett 19-20). However, the economic benefits of a new light rail line do not outweigh the damage such a line would place on an overburdened transit system like the RTA (Bliss). For example, the Cincinnati Streetcar, which has a ridership of two-thirds of its initial projections, has been credited with promoting development in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood (Bliss). Yet, critics say that the cost of the streetcar is too high to justify the meager benefit it has produced. With the RTA in the state that it is in, the possibility of an expensive light rail line becoming a financial burden would be disastrous, even if economic
development was spurred. Once the RTA is financially stable, then a light rail line should be considered, but as demand at the moment is not high enough to warrant the cost and disruption that a light rail line will create, the RTA should not pursue this type of project. There are, of course, many other points that can be raised either in support of, or against, light rail transit in Cleveland. Opportunities for further research include commuter rail, Bus Rapid Transit, and light rail routing that would enhance the transportation scene in the city. These other methods of transportation may be able to achieve many of the goals of light rail, but studies have shown that light rail, when well planned, is one of the most effective forms of mass transit. However, the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority should be concerned with the maintenance and operation of its current fleet, which has been lacking in recent times. If the transit organization is able to stabilize its funding issues, it should consider expanding rapid transit capacity to increase the efficiency of the transit system and increase access to mass transit, issues that have plagued Cleveland since the streetcar era. Only then will there be a potential to rise above the issues that have plagued Cleveland transit for almost a century, and return to the world-class transportation system that existed at the beginning of the 20th century.
Works Cited Bliss, Laura. “Enough With the Streetcars Already.” CityLab, Bloomberg Media, 2 Oct. 2017. bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-09-29/streetcars-like-detroit-qline-still-underperform. Accessed 29 Nov. 2020. Dubelko, Jim. “The Shaker Lakes Trolley - ‘The Earlier 'Rapid' Trip Downtown.’” Cleveland Historical, 5 Mar. 2012. clevelandhistorical.org/items/show/418. Accessed 29 Nov. 2020. Duncan, Michael, and Robert K. Christensen. “An Analysis of Park-and-Ride Provision at Light Rail Stations across the US.” Transport Policy, vol. 25, 2013, pp. 148–157. Exner, Rich. “How Downtown Cleveland Is Changing: By the Numbers.” Cleveland.com, 13 May 2016. cleveland.com/datacentral/2016/05/how_downtown_cleveland_is_chan.html. Accessed 29 Nov. 2020 Greater Cleveland RTA. “History of Public Transit in Cleveland.” Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, 27 Sept. 2019. http://www.riderta.com/history#:~:text=Bus%20Garage%20dedicated.,Light%20rail%20begins,Line%20and%20the%20Blue%20Line. Accessed 29 Nov. 2020. Greater Cleveland RTA. “How the Waterfront Line Was Constructed.” Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, 3 Apr. 2019. riderta.com/routes/waterfrontline/about. Accessed 29 Nov. 2020.
Greater Cleveland RTA. “Overview: Facts about the Greater Cleveland RTA.” Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, n.d. riderta.com/overview. Accessed 29 Nov. 2020. Garrett, Thomas A. Light-Rail Transit in America Policy Issues and Prospects for Economic Development. Federal Reserve, 2004. stlouisfed.org/~/media/files/pdfs/community%20development/research%20reports/li ght_rail.pdf. Accessed 29 Nov. 2020. Hambley, Stephen. Personal interview. 15 Apr. 2020. Hambley, Stephen D. “The Vanguard of Regional Infrastructure: Electric Railways of Northeast Ohio, 1884-1932.” The University of Akron, 1993. Harwood, Herbert H., and Robert S. Korach. The Lake Shore Electric Railway Story. Indiana University Press, 2000. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1d10hgq. Accessed 29 Nov. 2020. Lay, Tim, and Bestor Cram, directors, Cleveland: Confronting Decline in an American City, Northern Lights Productions, 2007. LaFleur, Pat. “Ohio Spends Less than Most States on Public Transit, Policy Analysis Shows.” WCPO, ABC, 17 July 2017. wcpo.com/news/insider/ohio-spends-less-than-moststates-on-public-transit-a-recent-analysis-shows. Accessed 29 Nov. 2020. Lendel, Iryna, et al. “Greater Cleveland RTA Economic Impact and Contributions to Local Economy: Main Findings.” Urban Publications, 2019. https://engagedscholarship.csuohio.edu/urban_facpub/1593
Levinson, Herbert S., et al. “Light Rail Since World War II: Abandonments, Survivals, and Revivals.” Journal of Urban Technology, vol. 19, no. 1, Jan. 2012, pp. 65–79. Levy, Alon. “Why It's So Expensive to Build Urban Rail in the U.S.” CityLab, Bloomberg Media, 26 Jan. 2018. bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-01-26/the-us-gets-less-subway-for-its-money-than-its-peers. Accessed 29 Nov. 2020. Malouff, Dan. “How to Tell the Difference between Streetcars and Light Rail.” Greater Greater Washington, 13 Jan. 2015. ggwash.org/view/36980/how-to-tell-the-differencebetween-streetcars-and-light-rail. Accessed 29 Nov. 2020. Masi, Brad. Personal interview. 15 Apr. 2020. Middleton, William. “Goodbye to the Interurban.” American Heritage, American Heritage Magazine, Apr. 1966. americanheritage.com/goodbye-interurban. Accessed 29 Nov 2020. Naymik, Mark. “RTA's Waterfront Line, Aka Ghost Train, Should Be the First Service Trimmed to Help Close Budget Shortfall.” Cleveland.com, 11 Mar. 2016. cleveland.com/naymik/2016/03/rtas_waterfront_line_aka_ghost.html. Accessed 29 Nov. 2020. Richmond, Matthew. “The Clark Freeway Fight Offered A Lesson on What It Takes to Protect a Neighborhood.” Ideastream, 17 Nov. 2017. ideastream.org/news/the-clark-freewayfight-offered-a-lesson-on-what-it-takes-to-protect-a-neighborhood. Accessed 29 Nov 2020.
Prendergast, Ken. “Cleveland Rail Shutdown Unavoidable.” All Aboard Ohio, 19 Oct. 2015. allaboardohio.org/2015/10/19/cleveland-rail-shutdownunavoidable/#:~:text=The%20%E2%80%9CDead%20Line%E2%80%9D%20at%20the,r est%20of%20the%20system%20running. Accessed 29 Nov 2020. Semsel, Craig. “More than an Ocean Apart: The Street Railways of Cleveland and Birmingham 1880-1911.” The Journal of Transport History, vol. 22, no. 1, 2001. EBSCOhost, doi:10.7227/TJTH.22.1.4. Accessed 30 Nov. 2020. “Shaker Heights Rapid Transit.” Encyclopedia of Cleveland History, Case Western Reserve University, 12 May 2018, case.edu/ech/articles/s/shaker-heights-rapid-transit.
Souther, J. Mark. “A US$35 Million Hole in the Ground: Metropolitan Fragmentation and Cleveland's Unbuilt Downtown Subway.” Journal of Planning History, vol. 14, no. 3, 2015. journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1538513214545849 . Accessed 30 Nov. 2020. Spangler, James, and James Toman. Cleveland and Its Streetcars. Arcadia Publishing, 2005.
“Spring Garden Avenue - Cleveland Transit System's Last Streetcar.” The Cleveland Memory Project, Cleveland State University, clevelandmemory.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/lakewood/id/1280/.
DH Toronto Staff. “Report: Toronto Has Third Highest Population Density of Any Canadian City.” Urbanized, Daily Hive, 9 Jan. 2018. dailyhive.com/toronto/torontodensity-fraser-institute-january-2018. Accessed 30 Nov. 2020. White, Gillian B. “Stranded: How America's Failing Public Transportation Increases Inequality.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 16 May 2015. theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/05/stranded-how-americas-failing-publictransportation-increases-inequality/393419/. Accessed 30 Nov. 2020.
The Image of Black Masculinity as Portrayed through Dystopian Fiction by Anika Krishna How does a Black man survive in a world where he must constantly compensate for the color of his skin? Where blackness is the ultimate evil, punishable by death, and his suffering is a form of entertainment? Friday Black, a series of short stories written by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, explores the realities of being black through dystopian science fiction. Using satire detailed with unapologetically violent description, Adjei-Brenyah demonstrates how segregation and violence against black bodies still exist in a supposedly post-racial era, fueled by the commonly-accepted negative perception of the black masculine identity. In one of the stories in the collection, “The Finkelstein 5,” adolescent-age Emmanuel struggles to fit into a Whitedominated society by altering his clothing, behavior, and speech to dial down his “Blackness” in public situations. Amidst the political turmoil occurring in the nation after a White man kills five black children, Emmanuel finds it more and more difficult to suppress his emotions and hide his identity. In another story in the collection, “Zimmer Land,” a young man named Isaiah works at a technologically-futuristic amusement park where patrons engage in simulations to mimic murdering black actors, like Isaiah, under the guise of delivering ‘justice.’ Receiving real and simulated abuse from customers during each shift, as well as contempt from protesters of the business who view him as a sellout, Isaiah copes with mental and emotional trauma. Emmanuel’s painstaking regulation of his Blackness dial and Isaiah’s workplace experiences in these stories reveal disturbing truths about the dystopian societies that they live in. Hyperbole based on truth blurs the lines between fiction and reality, and the detrimental impact of bias is exposed. By introducing the concept of the Blackness dial on the first page of “The Finkelstein 5,” Adjei-Brenyah emphasizes that the first thing Emmanuel must think about in
every situation is how he is perceived. If he does not prioritize looking as unthreatening as possible, he risks putting himself in harm’s way, whether that be through verbal remarks or physical violence. When shopping, he knows better than to eye any item for too long or to leave a store without a receipt. He dresses in well-fitting clothes and keeps the brim of his hat facing forward to keep his Blackness below 7.0 (Adjei-Brenyah 3-4). Adjei-Brenyah writes, “If he wore a tie, wing-tipped shoes, smiled constantly, used his indoor voice, and kept his hands strapped and calm at his sides, he could get his Blackness as low as 4.0” (Adjei-Brenyah 1). The similarity of phrases like “indoor voice” and “hands . . . at his sides” to commands given to a child is important to recognize, as the murderer of five Black children in the story, George Wilson Dunn—whose court case is written in parallel to Emmanuel’s everyday life—describes his victims as looking and acting much older than they actually were in order to justify his use of self-defense. An article published in the Journal of Negro Education, titled “Creating a New Narrative: Reframing Black Masculinity for College Men,” explains how the image of “Black masculinity has been detached from its African roots,” which focused on “familial connectivity, community leadership, and collectivity,” and instead “attached to a White dominant ideology” that chooses Black men from lower socioeconomic backgrounds with criminal records to represent the entire race (Pelzer 18). For Emmanuel, counteracting this stereotype does not simply mean embodying the aforementioned positive qualities or conforming to a White standard, but rather being in a state of hypervigilance, where every decision he makes is crucial to his survival. One way in which Emmanuel attempts to keep his blackness dial at a lower level is through code switching. “‘Nah We Straight’: An Argument Against Code Switching” by Vershawn Ashanti Young describes code switching as the conversion of African American
English (AAE) to Standard English, a practice that is particularly common in academic and professional environments (Young 50). In the story, Emmanuel uses AAE when speaking to his childhood friend Boogie, but switches to immaculate Standard English when speaking on the phone to a company representative—who speaks to him in colloquial language— regarding his upcoming interview. Young argues that looking down on the use of AAE comes from a segregationist idea. He compares code switching to Plessey v. Ferguson and the era of Jim Crow, which encouraged the flawed concept of “separate but equal” (Young 53; 73). As English phrases and words vary even within regional groups of White Americans, the idea that using AAE is improper outside of the home attaches a tag of inferiority to it. Rather than training black students to maintain a “double consciousness” promoted by telling them when to speak in which manner, Young advocates for code meshing, which allows for the incorporation of AAE into Standard English (Young 51). Emmanuel’s fear of being perceived as “too Black,” even over the phone, is validated to the reader when he is denied the interview on account of the company filling their unofficial quota for Black employees. The company representative with whom Emmanuel speaks tells him the position is already filled when he becomes aware of Emmanuel’s race, as if his role was only to be a token minority for the appearance of diversity. The company representative then goes on to justify the decision by claiming that the company is not an “urban brand” (Adjei-Brenyah 13)—a harsh generalization and microaggression. Emmanuel’s experiences of discrimination are analogous to the racial profiling of George Dunn’s victims in the other storyline in “The Finkelstein 5,” with the juxtaposition of Emmanuel’s story as a young adult male to that of the elementary-age female victim foreshadowing his own tragically-inevitable death. When Dunn is questioned by the prosecuting
attorney about how a seven-year-old girl could have possibly attacked him when her decapitated body was found yards away from the site of the initial altercation, he merely responds, “she looked at least thirteen” (Adjei-Brenyah 20). Along with the child’s age, he mentions the black clothes that the children were wearing, compares them to robbers, and refers to them as a “gang”—a term with threatening connotations (Adjei-Brenyah 16). Dunn’s failure to address his use of extreme violence and the logistical flaws of his cover story directs the conversation in a way that focuses on the appearance of the victims, portraying innate characteristics as being menacing. Victim blaming of the five kids normalizes an apathetic attitude towards brutality against Black bodies, evident in the complete lack of empathy and remorse not only of the murderer, but also of the jury, who watches “engaged and excited,” as though viewing for entertainment, before ruling in Dunn’s favor (Adjei-Brenyah 17). The hypervigilance Black characters must exhibit to avoid such a fate is in keeping with the idea of “Black disembodiment,” described by Adam Dahl as “a constant and pervasive fear that within a moment one's body can be taken without consequence and punishment” (322). Dunn’s victims may have been too young to understand this fear, but Emmanuel certainly does. Dahl’s article also discusses the case of Eric Garner, who was choked to death upon arrest by an NYPD police officer in 2014, explaining that Garner and other Black men who have suffered similar fates were never even calling for civil rights; they were simply begging for the “freedom to live” (Dahl 320). In the same way, none of Emmanuel’s efforts to control his Blackness were calls for social reform; they were necessary actions to keep him within a range on his dial in which he could stay alive. Throughout the story, Emmanuel wants to distance himself from Black male stereotypes and the people from his past whom he associates with them, but the realization that justice and
equality are unattainable in a system founded on oppression pushes him to resort to violence in an attempt to release his frustration. The night after he is denied his job interview, Emmanuel decides to join his friend Boogie, whom he initially pities for always being higher on the Blackness scale than himself, in “Naming”—a form of retaliation that involves committing acts of violence against innocent White people, all while saying the names of the five children murdered: Tyler Kennet Mboya, J.D. Heroy, Akua Harris, Marcus Harris, and Fela St. John. If brought into custody by law enforcement, Namers would respond to questions only by continuing to repeat the names of the victims. When Emmanuel joins Boogie, he chooses the name of Fela St. John, the youngest victim, whose decapitated body he sees in a nightmare at the beginning of the story. In his moment of pure anger and desperation, Emmanuel becomes drawn to violence in a way akin to Guitar, a character in the book Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison, which follows the fictional journey of a young Black man looking for answers about his cultural and familial roots. Guitar joins a society known as the “Seven Days” which seeks revenge for hate crimes against Black people by killing White people, who are often unaffiliated with the crime, in the same manner that the Black person was killed (Morrison 268). The Seven Days’ “an eye for an eye” mentality causes Guitar to eventually lose his purpose and become paranoid, turning on his own friend (Morrison 428). Similarly, Emmanuel’s experience does not give him the satisfaction that he hopes for. Adjei-Brenyah writes, “as he thrashed and yelled and saw it all, he felt nothing leaving him” (Adjei-Brenyah 24). Finally, he ends up hitting Boogie with his baseball bat instead of the targeted White couple, suggesting his understanding that injuring innocent people will not relieve the resentment and fear that has built up inside of him, nor will it bring back the five children. This emotional burden is his to bear forever, and he is frustrated that he allowed Boogie to convince him that partaking in this activity would make a
difference. Unlike the murderer who is able to humorously describe his attack on his victims in court, through statements such as “Vroom, I cut the basketball player’s head clean, vroom, off” (Adjei-Brenyah 18), Emmanuel does not receive the same legal and societal lenience for his behavior on the night of the Naming. Rather than being arrested or questioned when he stands over the White couple with a baseball bat, he is immediately shot (Adjei-Brenyah 26). This heartbreaking moment is reflective of how Black masculinity is perceived differently from a traditionally white image of masculinity. The article “Being a Black Man: Development of the Masculinity Inventory Scale (MIS) for Black Men” cites a 1994 study by Franklin which claims that “. . . the mainstream societal group, sends messages to Black men through avenues such as television and radio, idealizing dominant White masculinity traits such as competitiveness, aggressiveness, and dominance that are different from the messages they receive from their primary and peer groups” (cited in Mincey, et. al. 169). By contrast, research by Hunter and Davis shows that black men themselves emphasize qualities like “human community” and “spirituality” over “avoidance of femininity” and “restrictive emotionality” (cited in Mincey, et. al. 168). When traditional masculine characteristics are expressed by individuals of different races, they are not viewed equally. This is exemplified by Emmanuel’s death. At the moment when he feels what it is like to be in a position of dominance for the first time—as the perpetrator of fear rather than the victim of it—his Blackness dial uncontrollably reaches its highest level, showing that in his most aggressive state, he is seen as the most ‘Black,’ and he is killed by a police officer. Upon his death, his dial plummets to zero, proving that when he is no longer seen as a threat, which requires taking his life away, his skin color becomes unimportant (Adjei-Brenyah 26). Though Emmanuel’s
attempts to avenge the deaths of the children is not justifiable, it is impossible to ignore the stark contrast between his fate and that of the White murderer. A racially-biased view of masculinity creates this disparity and causes Emmanuel’s need to be constantly aware of and in control of his Blackness. The second story analyzed from Friday Black, “Zimmer Land,” takes the topic of Black suffering and creates a dystopia within a dystopia, where an amusement park that boasts the attraction of being able to scream slurs at, engage in physical fights with, and simulate shooting minorities is an accepted part of society. While the park draws protesters, it is overall quite profitable, attracting several “regulars” and gaining enough money and staff for expansion. The media reports on the business around the time of its opening but quickly gets “bored” and moves on—an indication of its normalization (Adjei-Brenyah 92). As discussed in the book Critical Race Theory, the normalization of racism is not just common, but inherent to society. Critical Race Theory explains that scholars who study legal institutions through a systemic, race-based approach believe that racism is not unusual or “aberrational,” but rather a “’normal science’” and “the usual way society does business” (Delgado and Stefancic 7). This is because the same systems which were built to benefit a White hegemony define equality through a colorblind perspective. These systems claim that equality exists because everyone— in theory—has the same legal rights within society, but the erasure of oppressive history that occurs when one doesn’t “see” race is the failure to acknowledge the lasting consequences of slavery and segregation, including but not limited to the physical manifestation of biases that still exist within people’s minds (Delgado and Stefancic 21-26). The Zimmer Land theme park makes it very clear that for people like Isaiah, race is not something that can be ignored, as it is the basis for the park’s design.
To effectively play the role of the “Bad Black Man” in each run of the simulation, Isaiah needs nothing more than his brown skin; the label is assigned to him by the patrons. Even when maintaining a calm, unsuspecting demeanor, he is harshly interrogated and berated, as though his mere existence is a wrongful thing. The idea of the “Good Black Man” and “Bad Black Man” is elaborated upon in “Against Bipolar Black Masculinity: Intersectionality, Assimilation, Identity Performance, and Hierarchy” written by UC Davis associate professor Frank R. Cooper, who states that the “Good Black Man” must separate himself from other Black people to assimilate into White culture and norms, while the “Bad Black Man” is “animalistic, crime-prone, and sexually unrestrained” (Cooper 876). Although Isaiah may assume the role of the good Black man in real life, working to please a White authority that simultaneously demonizes him for his skin color and provides his paycheck, he does not get the option to choose how he is viewed by customers who pay to have their racial biases validated. Regardless of their actual importance in society, these consumers get the chance to live out their fantasy of being the protagonist of the story in this make-believe world. In his section of the game, Isaiah loiters in the scene of a neighborhood until a patron approaches him, choosing either to shoot him in a heroic act of guardianship from a potential rapist or criminal, call the police for his arrest on the account of his acting suspicious, or fight him with their bare hands. Isaiah wears a mecha-suit which protects him from injury and holds fake blood packets to spew when he is shot with the BB gun, increasing the thrill of the experience while further normalizing the image of cruelty against Black bodies. Cooper explains in his article that the “animal imagery” of Black men that originated from Europe and has been so deeply ingrained in American history, culture, and law, is the most fundamental part of their threatening depiction that justifies this kind of violence. He gives
the example of the case of Rodney King, a victim of police brutality in 1991, in which defense attorneys legitimized the LAPD officers’ actions by describing King as a “beast in need of control” (Cooper 878). In an environment where his only forbidding quality is his dark skin, Isaiah is seen as an animal to be hunted. Isaiah initially hopes that the industry he works for will help decrease raciallymotivated violence in real situations by providing an outlet for racist consumers, but he eventually learns that the company cares more for profit than Black lives. During Isaiah’s first meeting after his promotion to the creative development team, he learns that the park has decided to begin marketing the experience to children to increase visitors. Adjei-Brenyah describes the new plan crafted by the management, writing that “it will focus on juvenile decision-making/justice implementation” (Adjei-Brenyah 96). From an early age, kids who visit Zimmer Land will be taught that cold blooded murder is not only admissible, but a form of “implementing justice,” or being a good citizen. The mission’s focus on “decision making” is also concerning, because in Isaiah’s simulation, the only three decisions given are violent and accusatory, villainizing him in every round. Jennifer Harvey, author of Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children in a Racially Unjust America, discusses the importance of “raceconscious parenting,” claiming that “racial development is no different than physical, intellectual, or emotional development (Harvey 8).” She goes on to mention how starting in the first few months after birth, “babies begin to observe and absorb, and even respond to the racial dimensions of our society” (Harvey 24). By opening the park to children, Zimmer Land becomes more than an avenue for unyieldingly violent and racist people. It is now a place of racist indoctrination, as it continues to keep alive a mentality that upholds a sociallyconstructed racial hierarchy where Black men are dangerous and dispensable.
The societies constructed in “Zimmer Land” and “The Finkelstein 5” are funhouse mirrors of our own, reflecting the current state of our country through a lens that amplifies the flaws of its racial divide. Emmanuel’s efforts to distance himself from the negative perceptions of his intersectional identity and Isaiah’s choice (or perhaps, obligation) to embrace these perceptions are met with criticism from peers, authority, and other members of their communities, demonstrating that they can never escape from a reproving public eye that holds Black men with a degree of apprehension. While the words and actions of many of the characters in these stories are shocking to most readers, the stories simply describe the daily lives of two average young men. The discomfort that we, as readers, experience puts us in a position where it becomes impossible to ignore the culture of normalized discrimination and Black disembodiment that has existed for generations in our country. Adjei-Brenyah’s stark language challenges the way that we think, showing us that even in a futuristic society, ignorance and indifference equate to violence.
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