Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Thursday Reading

Hi Folks,

The first page of the Facing South blog has a lot of interesting posts for tomorrow's reading.

Pay special attention to:
1. Formaldehyde presents special problems for Katrina's children
2. Nagin to present upbeat "State of the City" amid ongoing social disaster
3. Jena 6 case still unfolding
4. Anti-coal pranksters target Duke Energy CEO at home
5. A day to remember
6. Coal lobby responds to Facing South report on deceptive phone call
7. Big Coal makes deceptive phone calls on climate change legislation

Also, remember that they are organized by newest first, so it would be better to read from the bottom up.


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Emerging South

Most people tend to think of the Southern United States in terms of black and white, but the South also has a significant number of Asians and Hispanics. Migrant workers who play a key role in providing America’s food are scattered throughout the country, and there are around 400,000 undocumented immigrant workers living and working in North Carolina. Unfortunately, the living and working conditions of migrant workers are far from ideal. The ways in which migrant workers live are akin to those of people in an impoverished third world country. It is difficult to believe that such abuse takes place in a country that bases its main ideologies on the concept of freedom. Although slavery was abolished in 1865, unfair labor conditions still exist today. In fact, there have been documented cases of slavery recently. In particular, slavery has been a problem in Florida’s fields. For those interested, go to for Elias Lawless’ article “Ending Slavery and Sweatshops in Florida’s Fields”.

Sadly, as revealed in the Farm Labor Organizing Committee’s “The Story of FLOC”, the average life expectancy of a migrant worker in the United States is a mere 49 years. Many migrant workers and their families suffer are plagued by infectious and chronic diseases in addition to malnutrition. Infant and maternal mortality rates are much higher than the national average, and countless migrant workers and their children are forced to live in cramped huts without running water. Because farmworkers are oftentimes paid by the agricultural corporations according to a “piece” rate (ex. a set price for a basket of tomatoes, strawberries, etc.), they are not subject to laws regarding minimum wage. Although I knew that farmworkers received unfair wages, I was surprised to learn that they may receive less than 1 percent of the price that consumers pay for the foods that they helped to provide. I was also horrified to learn that if migrant and H2A workers complain of ill treatment or unjust conditions, they face either being blacklisted from future employment.

Urbano Ramirez’s story was heartbreaking to me. It’s terrible to think that it took people two weeks to even find Urbano’s dead body under the tree, and the people who found the body were not even the supervisors; they were Urbano’s co-workers. Sadly, Urbano was not the only worker to die of heatstroke in 2006; 4 others also died. I really feel for Urbano’s and the other workers’ families. All of this just goes to show how inhumane the conditions that they had to work under were. Personally, I feel that the agribusinesses and supervisors are responsible for the deaths.

Baldemar Velasquez, FLOC’s founder, has worked throughout the years to provide hope for impoverished farmworkers by encouraging them to fight for their basic rights and to recognize their dignity as human beings. I think that it is important for workers to be able to have the right to play a role in making decisions that ultimately affect them. I found it ridiculous although not surprising that Campbell Soup Company lied about not employing farmworkers when in fact they were. Fortunately, Velasquez and others spoke out against Campbell’s and took action. It was uplifting to read that farmworkers, not lawyers or politicians, eliminated the sharecropping system by 1988. This demonstrates that people have the power to make societal changes. As the article says, “History shows that those who wait for others to give them their rights rarely get them. It is those who take a stand for their own rights who see their potentials realized.” The FLOC has bettered the lives of many migrant workers not by sitting back but by actively seeking to change the world.

As a nation, we need to find ways in which we can provide ourselves with food without taking advantage of migrant workers. Some possible strategies, as outlined by the FLOC article, include extending the same legal rights given to other American workers to farmworkers. Agribusinesses can also give some of their benefits to basic production workers.


How much importance do you give to finding ways in which to better the lives of migrant workers?

What can we do to support the FLOC campaign? In what concrete ways can we help FLOC achieve justice for migrant workers and how can we get others involved in the effort?

What is your role in the system that is responsible for the invisibility, abuse, and exploitation suffered by immigrant workers? What are some ways in which you can change your role and work for bettering the lives of migrant workers?

What changes need to take place in our social and economic structures to ensure that migrant farmworkers are treated with respect?

What specific issues regarding migrant workers have you heard of recently or have been following? How do you feel about them? What do you think you can do?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Reading for Thursday

Hi Students,

For Thursday's class please read labor section of the Institute for Southern Studies' Facing South blog.

Also, have a look at the (Black Workers for Justice), (Coalition of Immokalee Workers), (Farm Labor Organizing Committee) websites.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Labor Struggles

I felt as if this topic of Labor Struggles, was very important for all of us to read about. The reason I say this is because reading the first reading Winston Salem, North Carolina, by Robert Korstad really made me think of all the struggles the color black people actually went through during that time. As I read I noticed that the reading mentioned a lot about unity and how they were all always united. For instance Robert Korsad mentioned on page 161 that "the church often provided classes in reading and writing and in some cases hosted public school classes as well." "in most denominations, women formed powerful, autonomous department and fought to secure the right to ordination. Even when they were banned from preaching, they served as teachers, missionaries, and musical directors". In other words women where the ones who did everything and because of the church they where able to spend as much possible and all be united. Another thing that was mentioned that kept these people united was music. Music I believe was a big part in there lives, because Korstad says" Often identified with a particular institution (the drivers and mechanics of the safe Bus company, for instance, formed a choral club in 1938), these singers competed against one another, staged benefits for a community projects, traveled widely, and launched individual on music careers". This quote explains what i mentioned about music being another factor that kept these people united even while they where on a bus. Music was something that kept color people united, while they all worked in Winston -Salem in the farms and in the Tobacco Companies. The workers that worked in these companies at times used there singing and there unity of church to be able to work in a comfortable place and be able to feel united in a comfortable environment. These people always sang while working which was something to be as close as they where.
Another reason why I felt this reading was very interesting was because Korstad mentioned how there where twice as much women as they where men, so pretty much women where the ones who were doing all the movement during that time, working in the tobacco companies and not getting paid the sufficient for the work being done by them, was not a good thing but these women needed to stay in these jobs in order for them to be able to support there families. Women I believe played a very important role during that time. And another thing I could not believe while I was reading this reading was how it was mentioned that these women worked in the tobacco plantations as well as the rich family homes. These jobs these women held were very difficult but the good thing was that they were still able to hold them. It comes to show that women are very strong and they we are also able to hold many difficult tasks at once.

by Maria Campos

Labor Struggles

Like many of the earlier readings for this class, the Civil Rights Unionism reading demonstrated that the oppressed conditions of the African American community and the traditions that have emerged from these conditions allowed for a strong sense of unity and in this case, unionization. There seem to have been three driving factors that are common to most all the movements/acts of resistance we have looked at in this class: church, song, and a strong female influence. The case of unionization of tobacco workers in Winston-Salem is no different.
In this reading, I found the church's involvement to be particularly interesting. Because of the exclusion of African Americans from participating in politics (through voting, etc.), the community turned to their churches for political involvement. Voting to elect deacons, etc., "(t)he surrogate politics carried on in the Black Church became an intensive training ground of political experience with all of the triumphs and disappointments of which the political process is capable." (pg. 161) In this way, African Americans were perhaps more ready to participate in union politics that white workers (who could participate in local, state, etc. politics), as the church more closely mimics the scale, etc. of a union and parishioners that may not otherwise vote, might be more likely to participate within their church.
Song also played an interesting role in the unity among the workers in Winston-Salem and elsewhere. The reading describes the singing during work (as begun in the plantation fields of the antebellum South). Not only did workers sing during their work, but some began choral groups with their fellow workers outside of the workplace. Workers often overlapped as preachers, parishioners, and neighbors, and singing together created the unity needed for a successful workers' movement.
Again, women seem to be an important part of the movement. It seems that in nearly every movement we have looked at, women have played a very important role. I think that the success of women in organizing goes back to the many different roles they are forced to play. In Winston-Salem, women were workers, mothers, often heads-of-households, many times domestic workers, and the caretakers of the community. These different roles gave them the power to influence the community as well as the perspective to know how and what needed to be done. One of the most interesting points for me was the fact that many women worked both in the tobacco plants and in the households of the rich, white community in Winston-Salem, giving them an insight on the inner-workings of white society. They were able to better understand the way the people in power thought and worked, and thus how to effectively influence them.

I was also interested in the description of the living conditions in the African American parts of Winston-Salem followed by the line, "You wouldn't believe it, living in a country like America, that people would have to live under those conditions." (pg. 59) This seems to be a common sentiment in this country-the idea that certain things 'just don't happen' in the United States. It is an interesting and conflicting idea that I think has both good and bad repercussions. In some cases, I think it drives people to work for change. When someone sees or experiences and injustice, this mentality can drive them to work for change/justice, because in the US, we are supposed to be entitled to certain things. On the other end, however, I think people who are not experiencing the injustices can be disillusioned. They think that hunger, etc. is something that happens in other countries, but not here in the U.S., and they go about with their lives. This, clearly, can be dangerous.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Remembering Jim Crow

I thought this section of Jim Crow brought up some interesting sentiments. I was interested in Maggie Dublin's story because i feel like religion plays somewhat of a contradictory role in it but in the end works to her benefit. Maggie was born in 1924 in Kentucky and her grandmother was a very religious woman but as a child Maggie didn't understand religion. her grandmother said that "everything that happened that was good in the community, she'd say, "Oh, Lord, the Lord did that. If it hadn't been for the Lord, I don't know what we'd do." i thought this statement and mentality took the power away from the people and could hinder political action. If everything that is good that happens is due to the hand of god then why bother trying to do good because god will just make it happen? this is not to say i think that this mentality made people bad but the civil rights movement took a lot of planning and this mentality i think takes the credit away from the people on earth who worked hard to make change happen. Maggie begins to understand religion only when she is taught from a 'bad' woman and she believes that it is god doing his work through a sinner, which doesn't make sense to me really, because if she was a bad person then why would she be one of gods tools. under that logic i would say she is comparable to a messiah rather than a bad person. After Maggie embraces religion i feel it empowered her though because she is able to tell her dad that she was worried about him not going to church, which allowed her to be a leader for her family. she also takes up leadership later in life to build and own her house. this makes me think that religion guided her to become a leader in some way because it made her confident. this i feel is somewhat of how i feel religion impacted the civil rights movement. in some ways it hindered it because people were more invested in the afterlife but in others it breed leadership and community and empowered a lot of people.


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Blues Legacies and Black Feminism Reading

The handout focused upon the misconceptions and the truths of women in the Blues. The second part of the handout based upon Billie Holiday’s song “Strange Fruit,” explored the meaning behind the song as well as its social implications. The blues was used as a way to deal with reality and in a way acknowledge it’s existence Davis mentions in the chapter that blues served as a way to make known which would have otherwise not had a voice, “they begin to articulate a consciousness that takes into account social conditions of class exploitation, racism and male dominance as seen through the lenses of complex emotional responses of black female subjects.”(Pg 119)
Throughout the first handout Davis is responding to other authors criticisms of blues singers, and the idea that blues is music of apathy. When you hear the blues there is not a feeling of apathy left within you, as much as there is a feeling of sadness. Davis describes them as addressing, “seemingly insurmountable but obscure social forces that have created the overall contest of misery and oppression.”(Pg 116) The feeling or portrayal of apathy that Paul Oliver expresses is because none of the blues songs actually say “Action.” Davis comes back to this by saying that they were not really in a position to be saying things like take action. I mean Billie Holiday said she remembered not even being able to eat at restaurants in the south when she performed with one of her bands.
Davis also points out that by just describing a situation, they were calling attention to the harshness of life in the poor community which would later help the flame of the uprising. Davis commented directly on the nature of these songs, “requires absolute honesty in the portrayal of black life.......As a rule, these songs do not criticize the institution, but simply treat it as an existing reality.” (Pg 107)
It was strange reading this quote because if we were to read any text describing the religious spirituals at the time, all of them were about hope, and escaping the hardships on earth. The blues was about recognizing the harshness, and embracing and mourning their way of life. I use the word mourn because of the feeling it evokes, like a helpless cry, but none-the-less a cry. Humans need this expression, even if it isn’t supposed to get at something directly, there still needs to be expression. Their worth is in the sincere human suffering that is catalogued in these songs. Davis said they do not criticize a poor mans way of life, but simply relay it.
It is this recognition of the living conditions that these people endured that allowed some identification from all the poor community in general. In the Strange Fruit chapter they mention how the depression had an effect on race relations, “circles of people who had been sensitized by both the transracial economic and social tragedies of the Great Depression and by the multiracial mass movements seeking to redress the grievances of the blacks and whites alike.” She goes on to talk about the movement among the white community which began to trickle into mainstream mentality. Because of the depression there was a recognition that the power was not just in the hands of white people, but a very few white people. This distinction left for identifications with class instead of race.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Black Churches presentation

All information and images are from UNC Chapel Hill's Documenting the South

Monday, May 5, 2008

Southern Democracy

In class we've spoken a lot about the power dynamics in the U.S and "Who rules America". We have also discussed how white supremacy was a tactic used by whites in the past to preserve their race, to keep them on the top of the power pyramid that Janine Carmona spoke about. On Thursday May 1, May Day was a day that people who believed and protested against HR4437 marched together to protest against the criminalization of Immigrants. While reading the Los Angeles Times blog entries about May Day I became infuriated by peoples comments on how they felt about the May first demonstration. Here are three examples on what people were writing;

It's so great to see people, who aren't American citizens, who have absolutely no rights guaranteed to them, come in here, demand we make changes to accommodate them, demand we change the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment, so their children are citizens and thus anchor babies, but refuse to allow us to enforce our immigration laws, and they refuse to learn English and demand we learn Spanish, so then we are terrorized by another 'No Gringo Day,' or what is it now, just May Day again?
If these people are able protest here, why can't they protest in their home country and demand change? But, there I go again thinking logically.

Posted by: Vaak | May 01, 2008 at 11:08 AM

I am sick to death over usa worriying so much over these illegals. We need to worry about our own. If we were in their country we would get no special treatment. What about our people. We are allowing these illegals to destroy America. I do not work to make these people a better life. I work to make mine a better life.Let them go back to their own countries and do the same.
God Bless America

While reading "With the Babies in their Arms ", by Paul Ortiz I began to think about to whose advantage does our democracy work for. Like Dagny asked in class, “Who do you think our founding fathers were thinking about when they wrote the Constitution”. Our democracy historically has had a problem with reinforcing equal treatment to their citizens of color. Like May Day, African Americans had always used Emancipation Day as a time when they reminded each other and their white neighbors that they had earned their citizenship, and now they used this day of remembrance to plan for the future (Ortiz). African Americans were not given the freedom they deserved but had to fight for it like many other people of color. In this reading we see women having a leading role in the fight for freedom, by fighting for their rights to vote and getting rid of Jim Crow Laws. When learning about African American movements you hardly read about black women’s contribution in organizing and also being leaders. I found this information rather refreshing to actually read about their roles as leaders in the Florida movements. At this time women, regardless of race were seeing inferior to men. Since black men and women began to fight for the right to vote white people saw it as a threat and looked for salvation in the white women’s vote. Giving white women equality in the voting sector with white men and also using their democratic vote as a ticket that would be used to make sure the white race remain the supreme race in the country.

Paul Ortiz also mentions how the sheriffs in Florida would let white on black crimes go unpunished and used their authority to block African Americans from organizing unions or voting. How do you think the African American communities felt when they couldn’t even depend on the people hired to protect and to serve them to actually do their job and not let their racism get in the way.

As result of the thousands of African Americans recruited in the Florida movement they were able to organize and make ties with other organizations resulting in change. My concern is why is it that when speaking about freedom other people have to work for them while others just have them. If we really had a working democracy and our laws were actually implemented than we wouldn’t have people still protesting and making demonstration for their equality.

Here are some Questions to think about and maybe respond to as a blog response:

What are the promises of Democracy?

How do you define them?

How, when and to whom would the promises of Democracy be extended?

How have others defined them?

What is the relationship between the individual and the social groups in the U.S.?

What does it mean to be an “American?”

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

May 1st Class

Class will be held at Quarry Plaza on Thursday, May 1st.

In lieu of class discussion and lecture, we will attend the May 1st: International Workers' Day rally in Quarry Plaza from 12-2.

To get your attendance and participation points for the Thursday, you will need to write a two page response/synthesis paper. You should cite to one speech or tactic from the rally that is applicable to the course; then use least two readings/class discussions/hand outs/blog/presentations to explain this connection. As always, essays should be well written and proof read. Please use size 12, Times New Roman.

Due Tuesday, May 6th, 2008

In Solidarity,

Monday, April 28, 2008

Freedom in The Movement

I have always thought that being politically active was a crucial task that Americans should exhibit. When we live in a country that is “home of the free and land of the brave,” we should expect that at times this “freedom” will be questioned and compromised; as a country we should fight to make this freedom a little bit more bearable for everybody and not just one group of people.

What is freedom? Can it be defined? In class I defined freedom as the equal treatment and judgment of people; within the boundaries of this, people should have the right to do as they please when they want. However, freedom is not as simple as my definition. I believe that it is this universal difficultly to pin down just what freedom is that has caused so much distress in the United States.

In Anne Moody’s Book, Coming of Age in Mississippi, she talks about the first sit-in she was ever in and the violence that ensued. On page 26, Anne writes, in detail, about some of the violence that broke out during the sit-in, “Down on my knees on the floor, I saw Memphis lying near the lunch counter with blood running out of the corners of his mouth. As he tried to protect his face, the man who’d thrown him down kept kicking him against the head”. While Anne is attempting to protest peacefully a mob of angry white people attack her and the other protesters. After the protest “about ninety policemen were standing outside the store: they had been watching the whole thing through the windows, but had not come in to stop the mob or do anything”. She further notes that, “After the sit-in, all I could think of was how sick Mississippi whites were. They believed so much in the segregated Southern way of life, they would kill to preserve it” (pg. 267). I was a little shocked by Anne’s description of the violence that occurred and the sentiment of white people in the South. I always knew that during The Movement- that took place during the late fifties and sixties- that many acts of violence occurred. I would like to think that people would not kill a group of people based on the color of their skin. However, in this capacity and on a larger scale the act of repressing a group of people by belittling those with absurd laws and junctions that leads to violence has happened many times throughout history. The fact of the matter is that during this period white people felt entitled to having more power over black people; whether they felt threatened because they thought that by having equality for everybody that the “white race” would meet its demise, is a concept that has been mentioned over and over again, but I believe that many factors contributed to this rocky point in American history.

What I love about this period in history is the compassion and feelings that brought together all these people and formed, The Movement. The pureness of the struggle for Human rights is so powerful, yet a difficult task to complete. I believe that for this period of time and train of thought that the people involved in The Movement were the most revolutionary thinkers and performers. They acted on their instincts and attempted to make a difference. I feel that our current young generation is a very technical one that is not as politically spontaneous and passionate, but rather apathetic.

In the end I would like to think that “Everybody should like everybody else” as said by Andy Warhol. Not everybody is the same but this is what makes life so beautiful. I think everybody should strive to be their own individual because as we are confronted with violence, racist people, attitudes, and ideas we can use our individuality to fight these injustices.

Synthesis Essay Two Due Date Postponed

Hi Folks,

I am going to postpone the due date for the second synthesis essay. This will give y'all some time to start work on your final project.

I will be posting the assignment for the second paper next Monday (May 5th) and the due date will be moved to Monday, May 12th at 12:00 NOON.

See y'all tomorrow!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Remembering Jim Crow

While reading the various accounts of the children and grandchildren of slaves that were told in the “Remembering Jim Crow” reading it struck my just how deeply engrained in society the division between blacks and whites are even to this day. The atrocities that occurred during slavery are obviously still fresh in the minds of blacks today, and in some cases they are reminded of these acts on a daily basis. In the case of Cora Eliza Randle Flemming who’s grandmother was raped by a white man, the daily reminder was there every time that she looked in the mirror. This resentment in Flemming’s case manifested itself by her throwing bricks at the white man who lived down the street. In the face of such deeply engrained distrust of whites, it seems to put into perspective why so many attempts at transforming into an egalitarian society have failed. I am not trying to place the blame upon whites or blacks for not releasing these deep seated thoughts, but to try and help conceptualize the failures of the many attempts to bridge these gaps in our society. Such facts as that blacks in the South celebrated event such as Emancipation Day and Fredrick Douglas’ Birthday well whites in the South celebrated Jefferson Davis Birthday and had a day to commemorate Confederate soldiers, show that even today there are two parallel cultures that exist in the South. It seems almost ignorant to believe that after one group of people have total physical, economic, and cultural control over another group that these two groups could coexist peacefully. This is not to say that attempts at this should be abandoned, but by learning more about these differences I believe will allow us to set more achievable goals for future civil rights endeavors.

Two Generations

While reading Coming of Age in Mississippi, I have been intrigued by the differences between Essie Mae and her mother. By the time Essie is finishing high school, she makes a clean break from her home life by moving out; what was once an environment of support has become intolerable. I think it is interesting how this shift occurs as Essie becomes more and more aware of her surroundings. As a small child Essie sees her mother as a protector, for she is the only means of support for the family for several years. During this part of the book, Essie portrays her mother as a hard worker who does the best she can for her family. Of course, as Essie becomes older, she and her mother seem to be in constant conflict. Essie is curious and outspoken, and always tries to gather information about the events around her even if they are taboo issues like her white cousins or hate crimes that occur in Centerville. Her mother, on the other hand, demands that she remains silent about these things and stops asking questions, fearing the consequences of being outspoken. These two attitudes demonstrate a major divide between the two generations. Essie’s mother, of the older generation, lives with a stronger memory of the structures of slavery. Living as a sharecropper working on a rich white man’s plantation may “officially” be considered freedom, but the same paternalistic structures of slavery govern this lifestyle. I imagine this memory would inhibit a rebellious spirit right away. And although Essie does remember living on the plantation, by the time she is old enough to realize the injustice around her she is no longer engulfed in that hurtful structure. Here, the younger generation prevails. Essie has the optimism and education to feel like she can do something more. She also has the courage to inform herself about injustices she sees, and questions things that are wrong. I feel that this is a huge distinction from her mother, who is afraid to even speak about the violence that goes on in Centerville. It is also a natural progression from one generation to the other. I am sure we have all had a disagreement with a parent or adult, because we can see things in new ways while they are stuck in an outdated mindset. What is accepted as right for one generation will inevitable change with time. But this type of positive change begins by questioning what we are told and looking at the world around us with a fresh perspective. As society changes we must constantly re-evaluate ourselves to make sure we are doing the right thing. Essie begins this process by simply wondering why injustice exists instead of accepting her situation. As we read her story, we can see how far a questioning mind can take us. Our current war, oil dependency, and environmental crisis could be improved if enough people rethink what is really appropriate in the world today. As innovative thought leads to action, we can work to improve our situation as Essie worked to improve hers.

Monday, April 14, 2008

What is a Freedom Fighter? (Sunniva Finney)

“One Man’s Terrorist is Another Man’s Freedom Fighter”

It is not surprising that most would assume that a Freedom Fighter would be in favor for the establishment of justice and fair treatment for all. Before researching the term Freedom Fighter, many renowned figures came to mind, many who had taken major roles in the struggle for individuals’ rights. The unfortunate reality of Freedom Fighters is that the connotation is all perspective. Some who may undeservingly apply this label to their own social/political conflicts exploit the name in the eyes of others, yet to their own political mindset they are very much fighting for their freedom.
The current situation in global policy can be applied to the Freedom Fighter. Institutionalized racism continues to thrive through propaganda provided by the media, schools/textbooks biased family members, and the government. This is most apparent with the War in Iraq. The United States government, numerous schools, and the media manipulate the public to believe that America’s “Fight for Democracy” qualifies us to declare ourselves Freedom Fighters. In reality, freedom is in the eyes of the beholder. Obviously, many Iraqis feel we have no business invading their politics. Much of the information behind Iraq policy is conveniently left out of the picture, leaving citizens with a sort of “BIG BROTHER” fear. It is sick how our government continues to thrive off of instilling fear in its citizens. Iraqi citizens are continuing to fight their own civil war as the United States invades; only deepening sentiment between the religious groups and towards America/Democracy. Has America not learned their lesson after intervening in Latin America? Obviously not, the United States continues to treat the world and its own citizens as puppets. These connections can be drawn from global politics to Domestic education—everything revolved around capital/money and correlates in politics.
Historically speaking, African American individuals and White Supremacists both played major roles in the Civil Rights Movement. Both groups fought against the government in very different ways. African Americans rebelled against societal norms, seeking to change the meaning for race in the eyes of the public forever. Although the most famous movements are generally non-violent, African Americans and non-racist white supporters took violent action as well. These violent acts qualify those fighting for Civil Rights as Freedom Fighters according to the common definition. It is ironic how fighting typically implies violence, yet violence is viewed as “wrong” and freedom as “just”. Hand in Hand, the words Freedom and Fighter together create a word that can be skewed to define a hero or a terrorist depending on the source.
I am not by any means sticking up for White Supremacists; rather I am noting that I found it interesting that members of the KKK could be more deserving of being called Freedom Fighters than those supporting the right. White Supremacists chose to fight the government by exploiting the law and the human rights of African Americans. Yet, the government allowed this unjust action to take place and continues to allow/encourage less obvious essentialized views of race and politics.

Inter-Racial Couples

As I was reading the last section of the book I was struck by the extremely sad situation that Tim’s friend, Herman who was half black and half white had to endure while growing up. Herman’s dad was black and his mother was white during a time when racism seemed to be widely accepted in the U.S. Herman’s parents met in Germany while his father was a sergeant in the army. The pair fell in love, started a family, and in the 1960s and moved back to the United States. Herman’s parents knew they would not be able to move back to Herman’s father’s town of Wedesboro because of the fact they were an inter-racial couple. Therefore, the couple chose to move North to Milwaukee, however things were just as bad in the North. When back in America the couple was scrutinized and could neither fit into the white community nor the black community.
One day, while they were living in Milwaukee someone threw a firebomb into their home. Herman was six and ran away from the explosion, however his infant sister was unable to escape the attack and was sadly killed. The family was devastated and Herman’s parents realized his family would never live peacefully in the United States and they moved back to Germany, the country of post Nazism.
The United States was unfortunately not holding up the motto of the “land of the free.” Ironically, the U.S. which citizens took pride in the country on being a free democracy which over through Nazism in Europe was unable to overthrow racism in its own country. Tyson said, “The land that produced Hitler seemed safer for a mixed-race American family than the nation that had lifted up Martin Luther King Jr. Herman grew up there on the army base, an American but not an American…” (Tyson, 306).
It is so terrible (or ironic?) that Herman’s parents were more accepted in a country which slaughtered six million Jews and six million other so called “degenerates” than in America! This unfortunate truth reminds me of the experience Paul Robeson had with America.
Paul Robeson, a black multi talented man and civil rights activist, and Soviet Union advocate frequently went to the Soviet union and Western Europe and was extremely impressed by the more equal conditions of race in Europe. Robeson was highly supportive of the Soviet Union because he felt that America was much more racist than the Soviet Union. Robeson was quoted saying, “that the country [Soviet Union] was entirely free of racial prejudice and that Afro-American spiritual music resonated to Russian folk traditions. “Here, for the first time in my life ... I walk in full human dignity”. Furthermore, Robeson felt that this was the first time he felt like a man “with a capital M” because it was the first time that he felt respected in a country and not a subordinate citizen (Lecture 1/24/08, Hirsch).
I think America may be less accepting of different races than other Western countries and many Americans either do not know or choose to ignore this about our history and our present life. Through Herman’s experience as a child in an interracial family we can see how backwards and horrifying our United States history really is and still continues to be today. For example, while interracial couples may be more accepted today (through celebrity couples, media, etc – Heidi Klum and Seal, and Kimora Lee Simmons and Russell Simmons) we still have a long way to go regarding equalities in the United States (regarding, immigrants, undocumented immigrants, religion, race, gender, etc).

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Miss Amy's Witness

The first paragraph of chapter four, "Miss Amy's Witness,” has a powerful quote from James Baldwin that truly caught my eye. Tyson is recounting a lesson he learned from him in the first grade, that "the realization that a civilization is not destroyed by wicked people; it is not necessary that people be wicked, but only that they be spineless," (61). This is a theory explored much more when it comes to the German support, or indifference to the rise of Nazi power, as Baldwin later mentions on page 63. I had never thought of it in terms of slavery and racism, though it is obviously incredibly applicable. The basis of spineless support might stem, like mentioned in class, from a basic selfish economic need. Without the slave trade and subsequent free labor, it is undoubted that our country would have never become to economic power it became; and without the rallying behind a common voice and singular leader in Germany who subsequently installed his own free labor system with the Jewish population, Germany would have had a much more difficult time coming back from the economic depression post World War One. The economic draw for the wicked acts of the spineless people, once essentially used up, evolved into a hatred and superiority complex that still exists today, and it is this blind hatred that Baldwin spoke of.
It is truly a selfish decidedly ignorant attitude, which provides the basis for the spinelessness that Baldwin either equates to, or thinks lesser of, then wickedness. By choosing to “go with the flow,” of the society or culture, we are making a conscious decision to NOT decide. It is along the same lines of citizens of the world not making an effort to buy non “made in China” products and in effect support the Sudanese genocide. By not choosing to buy local or other worldly goods, it is not an innate wickedness that is being perpetrated, but a spinelessness to do anything different. The culture of the South that Tyson writes about is one that decided to stay segregated, and ignorant. What social revolution that still needs to happen everywhere, not just in the South, is the idea that Tyson was raised on, that, “if you didn’t take a stand at all, you weren’t much of a man..” (64). I admire the parenting Tyson received that gave him such a strong basis in basic humanistic respect in, at his time, such a backwards town and region of our country. His father’s reasoning, that every man, woman, and child is equal in the eyes of God, is interesting in the sense that racist white preachers of the same era used the same bible, yet were able to come to completely different rhetorical ideas about race. As Dagny spoke about in the previous post, it is really through education that people become empowered and can hopefully overcome their own ignorant and hateful spinelessness syndromes.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Updates on Today's Progressive South

If you are interested in keeping up with what is going on with the South today check out the Institute for Southern Studies' Facing South blog. We will have assigned readings from the blog later in the quarter, but you might want to check it out ahead of time. You can also sign up for the Facing South news update to be sent to your email.


Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Response to Blood Done Sign My Name

In response to p. 39 of Blood Done Sign My Name by Timothy Tyson

I am still thinking about when Tyson talked about the “sex-race complex.” It took me few readings to understand James Baldwin when said to conservative James J. Kilpatrick “You’re not worried about me marrying your daughter—you’re worried about me marrying your wife’s daughter. I’ve been marrying your daughter since the days of slavery,” (Tyson 39). He was talking about the rape of black women since the period of African enslavement, the imagination by the dominant power structures of black women as the mule of society and white women as the coveted carriers of the white race. It is fascinating that Tyson couples this with education. It was a “crime” punishable by death to educate an enslaved African American in the antebellum South and considered completely “useless” to educate a woman. Prior to reading this, I thought of this system of oppression in very specific terms. From my view, the reason to deprive people of education is it is dangerous to the ruling class to educate women, people of color and poor folks because with education comes power. When a person and community can write and read, that is an incredible tool. When studying with Professor Paul Ortiz, he always stresses the link between reading, writing and social justice. He makes in explicit in his courses that if we, as University students want to contribute to social justice it is imperative that we get in the practice of constantly reading and writing. These are invaluable tools. When I read Tyson’s explication of the “race-sex complex” my field of thought broadened to thinking about the physical space of a school and intellectual common ground. Now, with integrated schools the white supremacy is threatened not only by women and folks of color become educated, it is threatened by the physical space and intellectual commons that people are starting to share. When the relationships between blacks and whites are taken, even partially, out the control of white male supremacy and put partially in the hands of children, the dominant ideologies and stereotypes are challenged and potentially broken every day. This possibility terrified many whites when Tyson was growing up. He talked about how whites were resisting integrated education not because they were afraid of people getting the same education (which clearly whites/blacks/men/women did not regardless of whether classrooms were integrated or not) but of white women and the white race being contaminated by black men.

The more I read and think about the paragraph on page 39 of Blood Done Sign My Name the more it turns my stomach and pisses me off. When I think about the segregation that Tyson describes in the book, I cannot help but think about the segregation I have experienced in schooling. I think it is interesting that so many people relegate segregation to the South, when I have seen the same actions and the same result from my schools in California. As a woman, I have been frustrated by the level of respect and rigor offered me in classes and as a white person, I am constantly finding new ways in which I receive privileges that add to the oppression of people of color. And now, I am thinking about all this in terms of white male supremacy protecting and insuring their survival by depriving the minds and bodies of people who look different than them from so many rights- only one of which is education.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Radical South

Welcome to the course blog for Community Studies 42M: Radical Southern Histories of Organizing and Resistance!

On the blog you can find posts and comments by students enrolled in the course, a working online museum of Southern freedom fighters as well as the course materials (syllabus, essay questions, discussion topics etc.) and applicable websites and videos.

If you are a student and you have any questions on how to join the blog, please comment here or email me directly at