Sunday, November 4, 2007

Foreigners in Their Native Land

Mexicans did not necessarily go to the United States, the United States more or less came to them. Americans came to California at first in small numbers and the Mexicans accepted them, however, as time went on more and more Americans came to take over the Mexicans land and the Americans started to out number the Mexicans. Americans would cross the boarder and come to Texas as illegal immigrants. And at first the Mexicans chose to leave the boarders opened to the immigrants to come over, however, then the boarder was moved and now the Mexicans were located within the United States.
The titled of this chapter holds significance because it describes how the Mexicans felt on their land. “Foreigners in Their Native Land” shows that the Americans treated the Mexicans as foreigners on their very own land. The Americans came and took over the Mexicans land and treated the Mexicans as though they did not have a right to live there. “Suddenly they were thrown among those who were strangers to their language, customs, laws, and habits” (177). This shows that the Mexicans were surrounded by Americans and their way of life. Mexicans were now under American laws and controls and therefore they were expected to abide by them. They were allowed to vote usually, however, there were not enough of them to make a difference in most places. Also, laws were aimed at Mexicans such as the “Greaser Act” and “Mexican Miners’ Tax”.
The social construction mechanism discussed in this chapter is the different class levels that they were separated into. According to this chapter, the people were separated into classes based on their skin color. Also many times they are separated based on their jobs.
They resisted discrimination and racialization by demonstrating that they were capable of defying stereotypes such as docility and submissiveness (187). They had a sense of self-respect and the worth of their work, and they repeatedly went out on strike. They developed things such as the “Mexican system” which was a way of irrigation that helped turn the Texas land from scrub bushes to green fields. They also extracted ‘red metal’ used to manufacture electrical wires. On top of the great things they discovered, they also developed groups and organizations that often held strikes to try to get fair working conditions.
One example of race in this chapter is that “many countries established ‘white primaries’ to disfranchise Mexicans as well as blacks” (179). An example of ethnicity in this chapter is “These strikes reflected a feeling of Mexican ethnic solidarity” (189). Race is more of a socially constructed idea of a group based more on their color and the way in which they look while ethnicity has more to do with their culture and where they are originally from.

Monday, October 29, 2007


One time in which I remember that I have been stared at was when my family was at the airport awaiting the arrival of my brother from Iraq. Due to the fact that we had signs and were crying when we saw the plane pull up, many people sat, staring at us wondering what the big deal was. However, we were so proud and so happy we did not care that people were staring. This may not be an example in which we were stared at in an odd, and dehumanizing way, but because we were going against the social norms, people did stare at us and wonder why we were acting this way. However, in this given situation, we really didn't care what others thought because we were just go happy that he was home. Although, once we got off the plane and we were walking through the airport, with my brother, who was in his military uniform, we did get a lot of looks and people were actually rather rude to him. However, there were many people that stopped us and told him thank you for serving and shook his hand and aknowledged us for getting through a whole year while he was over there as they realized how hard that could have been for us as well.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Comic Book Analysis

I chose this comic book cover because it showed many stereotypes that we have discussed in class. It shows the powerful, white male, it also shows the white female being portrayed as a damsel in distress while being attacked by a minority race. All of these topics we have discussed in class and seen in other readings and videos.
On the cover it shows a white female who is tied up and held captive by members of the “yellow” race. She looks very scared and helpless. She is surrounded by men who have been holding her captive. This is similar to what we have seen in the video Ethnic Notions. In the video the white women were being chased by black males and they are running from the men. In some cases the females would jump off cliffs to escape these males because they felt that it was a better alternative than being caught by the men. There was never an image of black females being chased or being scared because they were not seen as feminine or helpless like the white women were.
Also on the front cover of the comic book is a picture of a white male coming in to save the day for the white female. It shows him fighting off many other men all by himself. He is coming through the ceiling with a gun that appears to be very powerful and is portrayed in a way that makes him look very dominant. There is also another white male in the background who appears to be very well built and is fighting off the yellow Gestapo as well. This shows the white male as being dominant and almost super hero like compared to the yellow race. They yellow race appears to be very weak and troubled that the white man is there. The fact that the one white man can fight off the whole Gestapo shows the dominance that the white male has over the yellow race.
I feel that the repetition of these comic book covers being printed during this time helped to develop such stereotypes. With people seeing these kinds of images on a daily basis, they cannot help but start to think it these ways. The fact that they show the white woman as being helpless and the white male dominating definitely played a part in the way we think about the genders today.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

How Jews Became White Folks

In Karen Brodkin’s writing called How Jews Became White Folks she talks about how anti-Semitism played a part along with other discrimination toward immigrants in forming a perception of the Jews. Brodkin explains what the Jews went through before and after the war and how Jews were able to climb higher in class and were finally seen as white people and not just Jews. Brodkin’s thesis states that it took federal programs to create conditions in which Jews and other European immigrants could be recognized and rewarded while at the same time completely sealing off any opportunity for social mobilization for African Americans.
The point at which Europe was divided into inferior and superior races began with the large numbers of European immigrants that came to America and due to such a large amount of immigrants they were not easily assimilated. One thing that many white U.S. born Protestant elite feared was the mixing of races. Madison Grant stated that he believed that the cross between any of the three European races and a Jew was a Jew. (40). Grant also believed that race and class were one in the same and that the upper class was racially pure Nordic while the lower class came from the lower races (40). These notions from Grant and other scientist made people believe that Americans were white and that real whites came from northwest Europe. Therefore at this point, Jews and African Americans were still being discriminated against.
Changing views, after the war, on who was white made it easier for Euro-ethnics to become middle class (43). According to Brodkin, “The economic mobility of Jews and other Euro-ethnics derived ultimately from America’s postwar economic prosperity and its enormously expanded need for professional, technical, and managerial labor, as well as on government assistance in providing it” (43). Due to the abundance of jobs that needed to be filled, the Jews were able to step up and take a position in society that they had been previously denied. The passage of the GI Bill of Rights was a massive affirmative action program that aimed at and helped male, Euro-origin GI’s.
Due to the GI Bill, many white males that would previously not been able to obtain a college degree were granted the opportunity to go to college. Before the war, most Jews were part of the working class, however, after the war they were able to move up to the middle class due to their educational and occupational opportunities. However, by allowing white males to climb higher in society, it left white females and black in the dust. Black and white females were not experiencing all the benefits that the white males were after the war. Discrimination in the workforce, housing market, and educational opportunities made it hard for blacks and white females to experience what the white males were experiencing.
The Federal Housing Administration believed in racial segregation and therefore, did not allow the high quality housing that they offered for the whites, to be extended to the blacks. With the federal government behind them, virtually all developers refused to sell to African Americans (47). Through the process of urban renewal, the Jews and other working-class Euro-immigrants became middle class while leaving the blacks in the working class.
Therefore, in the end federal government programs were designed to assist demobilized GIs and young families while systematically discriminating against African Americans.
So did the Jews truly pull themselves up by their own boot strings to be a part of the middle class? Not exactly. Without the help from the federal government, the Jews would have had a hard time mobilizing as quickly and as well as they did. The government passed such things as the GI Bill, which created many opportunities for the Jews that allowed them to move up the social ladder. Also the Federal Housing Administration built affordable and nice housing for whites to live in while they did not provide the same services to the blacks. More so, VA mortgages would lend money to whites and would discriminate against the blacks. Therefore, the Jews experienced privileges because they were extended to the whites but discriminated against the blacks.
Overall, I found this reading to be interesting. I liked how she had it laid out and broken down into sections. It made this reading easy to follow and helped the reader know where she was going with each section. I also found it interesting in how the Jews were finally ‘accepted’ into society while discriminating the blacks in the process.

Monday, October 1, 2007


In Octavia Butler’s Kindred, the protagonist Dana Franklin who lives in Los Angeles in 1976 is brought back into history during the early 19th century. She is brought back to the antebellum south into the state of Maryland by one of her ancestors, Rufus Weylin. However, Dana is a free black women living in 1976 and Rufus is a white slave owner in the south during a time of slavery.
During her time in 1976, Dana is a writer who is married to Kevin Franklin who is white and also a writer. Kevin travels in time with Dana for one of her trips to Maryland during the early 1800’s. However, Kevin’s experience in the south is much different than Dana’s due to the fact that he is an educated white man and Dana is an educated black female.
Kevin spends his time in the south at first on the same plantation as Dana, working as a teacher for the master’s son Rufus. Kevin teaches Rufus how to read and write while on the plantation and Dana spends her time working as a slave in the cookhouse and doing other things around the plantation that the other slaves were responsible for doing. However, Dana is brought back to 1976 without Kevin and Kevin spends the rest of his time in the 1800’s traveling, teaching slaves and helping slaves escape.
However, once Kevin is gone and Dana is back on the plantation she does not have Kevin to stick up for her. She spends time in the cookhouse with the other slaves but she also has other privileges that the other female slaves do not have. Dana and Rufus had a special friendship that Rufus did not have with any of the other slaves. Rufus liked it when Dana would read to him while he was sick. At first they had to keep this a secret from Rufus’ father but then Tom Weylin began to have some respect for Dana throughout the novel and he allowed her to read to Rufus and teach him how to write.
Although Dana was black she had other privileges over the other slaves due to the fact that she could write and read and that was something that Rufus and Master Tom were not so good at themselves so they were somewhat scared of her because she was a literate slave. Rufus and Dana had an understanding that Dana would not leave Rufus if he would not hurt her.
During the time that Dana spent in the south during the 1800’s she experienced things such as power, gender roles, and racial conflicts in ways that she was not subjected to in 1976. The power that landowners had over their slaves was obviously something she had never experienced and it was hard for her to deal with at first. Also the different gender roles of the males and females on the plantation and off the plantation were quite different than those in the 1800’s. However, most significantly different was the racial conflict that was going on. The whole idea of slavery and the different lifestyles the blacks had in the 1800’s compared to the lifestyle she lived in 1976.
When Dana returns with Kevin to the present day, she says that she, “never realized how easily people could be trained to accept slavery.” How does this reflect the current attitudes about race and ethnicity? The fact that Dana would continually be brought back into slavery after she had lived most of her life as a free black women and she would instantly accept the roles of slavery during that time was shocking to her that she could do this. However, because she was in a time period that this is all they really know, and this is how they think things are suppose to be, their attitudes rubbed off on her and she did not know of any other way to act.
This reflects the current attitudes about race and ethnicity today because we too have been socially constructed to accept race and ethnicity for what we perceive that it is. We are taught through society that race is something that cannot be changed and we are led to believe that it is biological. Because we see race and ethnicity as something so deeply part of our culture, we don’t do anything to try to change it. We just go a long with what society leads us to believe. This is exactly what Dana was doing with slavery. She knew that it was wrong and that it would end eventually but she did not do anything about it and in some ways even accepted it and gave into slavery.
I really enjoyed reading this book a lot. It was a quick read and it was very different from anything else I have ever read before. I like the fact that the author took us back into time and allowed us to view slavery from a point of view outside of the time period that was actually experiencing it. Everything about the book was very relevant to what we have been reading and class and there were many connections in the book that I was able to make with other readings that we have done in class thus far.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Takaki: Chapter 3

In Chapter 3, titled The “Giddy Multitude”: The Hidden Origins of Slavery, Takaki talks about the origin of slavery and how it came about. He starts off by talking about The Tempest and the characters whom played a role in this play and relating them to what really happened in the coming of slavery. I believe that Takaki’s main thesis for this chapter is the fact that the “Giddy Multitude” which is “a discontented class of indentured servants, slaves, and landless freemen, both white and black” (63) constantly threatened the social order that constructed slavery.
I this chapter Takaki starts with the stating that some of the first slaves where Indians but in the play The Tempest, the slave was portrayed as an African. He then states that twenty Africans had been brought to Virginia by a Dutch man and although they had been sold, they were not exactly slaves because they were not reduced to property. They, in fact, were more like the white indentured servants who were bound by contracts to serve a certain number of years and then they were set free. Slowly more slaves were brought over to the Virginia colony from places like Germany, England and Ireland. Like the Africans the white indentured servants were brought to the Virginia colonies unwillingly. They were typically of the low class of society, brutish, vagabonds, whores and cheats.
Because the blacks and the whites were coming from different places, to the Virginias and serving as slaves and indentured servants together, they had no negative feelings toward each other. These white and black servants would runaway together and worked together everyday. However, finally Virginia legislators spoke up and started to make relations between the blacks and the white come to and end. They were strongly punished if they ran away together, or if they had any kind of relations with each other.
Once they started to separate the blacks and the whites, they started treating them differently as well. The whites were not punished as harshly as the blacks were for disobeying their masters. Also, the whites did not have to serve for life like the blacks did. Another thing that was happening was that the Africans were being degraded into the status of property.
Now that the white servants were free, they wanted to own land but the current merchants would not give them any land. So the “giddy multitude” became a threat to social order. They led conspiracies, revolts, and other rages that caused the upper and middle class to become frieghtened of this group of people. Large landowners, such as Thomas Jefferson, realized that the social order would always be in danger if they had to depend of white labor so they decided to go strictly to slaves.
Virginia wanted to let some of their white servants go so they brought more blacks over to become slaves. They saw the value of having slaves for life however, something else had happened too that opened the way for a switch from indentured white labor to black slave labor (61). This is something is the fact that the hidden origins of slavery were indeed rooted in class (61).
By having blacks strictly as slaves, they wanted to make sure they did not make the same mistakes with them as they did with the whites by allowing them to have too much power. In order to keep the blacks as socially low as possible, they passed many laws restricted blacks from doing things such as voting, or having the freedom of assembly or movement. These laws made the cultural gap between the blacks and the whites much larger.
Thomas Jefferson felt guilty about the slave situation and said that he would abolish slavery once his debts were paid off. He said that once slavery was abolished all of the slaves would have to be removed from America because he believed that blacks and whites could never coexist in American because of “the real distinctions” which “nature” had made between the two races (71). Jefferson also believed that nurture would not improve the nature of blacks (74) and that blacks were not as smart as whites.
So what would happen to a president today if they said that they believed that whites and blacks could never coexist in American because of “the real distinctions” which “nature” has made between the two races and that blacks are inferior to whites in such things as intelligence? If such a thing was said today, by almost anyone, it would be greatly refuted. First of all, the only “real distinctions” is the skin color and the only reason it has any meaning in our society today is because we have socially construed it to be that way. Second of all nature has not made the blacks inferior to whites, it was our social class that made us believe that they were, and treated them as though they were. And finally, it is very obvious to us now, that blacks are not less intelligent than whites. There are many intelligent, successful of both races.
I didn’t particularly care for this chapter. I felt that it was long and drawn out. I also thought that it was laid out weird. I felt as though it wasn’t necessarily in chronological order. He would talk about how they changed to having all black slaves, and then it went back to having white indentured servants. I just felt that it could have been written better and more smoothly.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Chapter 6

In Johnson’s chapter six titled What it all Has to do With Us he discusses the idea and the role that individualism plays in our society. He also talks about the path of least resistance and what is truly means to be involved in oppression and privilege. I believe that Johnson’s thesis in this chapter is to explain that when considering the role of privilege and oppression you have to also consider the role of social categories and not focus so much on the individual. Johnson wants to point out that the social categories aren’t just something that one person can change, that it is a societal thing so much that we sometimes don’t even realize it.
Johnson first starts off chapter six by stating that society encourages us to think that the social world begins and ends with individuals, when in reality that isn’t true. When believing in the individual way of thinking, we find ourselves believing that everything is someone else’s fault and makes it hard to talk about such topics of racism or sexism. It also makes us not even acknowledge the existence of privilege because individualism so focused on the individual it fails to consider societies influence. This is why Johnson says the individualistic way of thinking is not correct and we must consider society as an influence in what goes on. Johnson talks about how individuals must play a part in social systems in order for social life to occur. He then brings up the concept of the path of least resistance. Johnson says that in the end the default position is to adopt the dominant version of reality and act as though it’s the only one there is (80). To explain the path of least resistance Johnson tells a story about being in an elevator and the fact that we all know to stand and face the front of the elevator in a relatively quiet manner. However, if someone was to stand in an elevator and face the back of the elevator, many people will give them odd looks and wonder what they are doing. However, they are not doing anything wrong, or hurting anyone in any way, it’s just that they are doing something that is not the social ‘norm’ so people find it weird and may judge them. So if you don’t want to be judged or looked at funny, people do what is socially accepted as normal, which would be the path of least resistance. Also, people know that there are other paths that exist but they do not choose that route because they are afraid of what will happen if they do. Johnson then goes on to point out that similar dynamics operate around the issue of privilege (80). People in a corporation tend to promote the people and mentor the people that are most like them, making it difficult for other people to get promoted. And Johnson states that what we experience as social life happens through a complex dynamic between systems such as families, schools, and workplace, along with the choice that people make as they participate in them. And through this process of these systems working together is how social life helps produce privilege and oppression. Johnson states that most of the time we do not even realize that the path of least resistance is there and that is what helps create and maintain privilege.
So do people really follow the path of least resistance in most cases still today? Of course they do. The path of least resistance is the path that will cause the least amount of fuss or attract the least amount of attention because that is what we view as socially normal. For instance, when men are sitting around and telling each other jokes, and one man says a very sexist joke and some of the men find it offensive but they just laugh and play along because they do not want to draw attention to themselves. They know that if they bring it up they will either get laughed at and teased or it may start a heated argument so they just take the path of least resistance and laugh along with the rest of the men. Also, school kids my tease one boy for having glasses and the other kids may think it is mean, but they do not say anything because they do not want to get made fun of either. So the path of least resistance is certainly a common path still today in many countless situations.
I enjoyed this chapter by Johnson. I feel that he did a good job of using a lot of examples to help explain his ideas better. I like the Monopoly analogy that he used throughout and also the stories he used to describe the path of least resistance. I think he did a very effective job of explaining his topics and his points in this chapter. I also found the concept of the path of least resistance very interesting and it helped me realize how prevalent it is in our society today in some many aspects.