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.