Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Race: The Power of Illusion: Difference Between Us

In our previous readings, we came to believe that racism is something that is biological and unchanging. However, in the video Race: The Power of an Illusion: Difference Between Us we come to find out that there is no genetic marker that defines race. The difference between a white person and an Asian person is not biological. It is believed that the difference between races is a socially constructed difference.
When we look at a person, we identify their race just by looking at them, when in all actuality there may be more to them then their skin tone, eye shape, or hair texture. However, we have socially construed race to be based on looks that we don’t take the time to consider what other ethnicities a person might be. For example, in the video they stated that people could not remember who the Italian baseball play was that hit so many homerun, because he was black, so they did not associate him with being Italian.
In the video they also talked about athletic performance, or any complex trait such as musical talent and how we have not been able to put specific traits to certain abilities. They gave the example that the American basketball dream team was composed of mostly African Americans and started to believe that they were best at basketball. However, then the top player who was drafted the next season was Chinese. This totally threw out the whole idea that only African Americans were best at basketball.
So is racism culturally or biologically derived? Well through the students’ experience that they did in the classroom, it showed that those of the same race did not necessarily have the most in common when they compared their DNA test results. Students who were of the same race had more in common with those of a different race than the student of the same race. Also stated in the video was that a person who is black will not be any similar genetically to another black person than they would be to a white person. Therefore, I think that it is safe to say that race is not as biological as we may think. It is more socially construed throughout history and even today, that it seems so natural to us.
I really enjoyed this video and found the topic to be very interesting. I especially like how well this video went along with the other readings that we have done in class so far this semester. It gives us a chance to compare articles and points of view and allows us to decide for ourselves which side we truly believe.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Zinn's Drawing the Color Line

In Zinn’s article Drawing the Color Line He asks if it is possible for blacks and whites to live together without hatred. He then states that by looking back through history we can find clues to help answer this question. Zinn then continues to recite the history of the blacks and the white from the beginning of time which, as most of us know, started with slavery. Also, with this color line comes the idea of racism, something that we cannot change about our selves or others. It permanent and there is nothing that we can do about it. Therefore, it may be very hard for blacks and whites to live together without there being any amount of hatred or inequalities because of this racism.
Zinn states that “Everything in the experience of the first white settlers acted as pressure for the enslavement of blacks.” The Virginians had a hard time growing enough food for everyone and they couldn’t ask the Indians to be their slaves because the Indians were already living off of the land abundantly and with less labor then the Virginians so to get back at the Indians they decided that they would own slaves. These blacks that they had as slaves were stripped from their culture, families, language, and customs and sent from Africa under horrible conditions in which many black chose to die instead of living through it.
The slaves that did live through their horrifying experience and made it to the U.S. did not exactly have a pleasant life here either. They had no rights and were treated very badly. Zinn states that when white servants and black servants tried to run away together, and they got caught, the white servants received lighter sentences while the black servant received “thirty stripes and to be burnt in the cheek with the letter R, and to work in shackle one year or more as his master shall see cause.” So even though whites served as servants as well, they were not punished the same as the blacks were.
Also, going along with the racism, Zinn states that blacks were taught “to see blackness as a sign of subordination, […] to merge their interests with the master’s, destroying their own individual needs. This shows that racism was very present. That the fact that they were black meant that they should loose all of their beliefs and assimilate to the white culture and beliefs. And because they were black, and there was nothing they could do about it, they had to abide by these rules.
Finally, Zinn sums things up in the end stating that these conditions that happened in history are not natural and that there is possibility for something else, but there really is no easy way of getting there.
So can whites and blacks live together without hatred and inequalities? It seems that today whites and blacks are able to live together without a noticeable amount of hatred. We can eat, study, vacation, and live all in the same places without any major hatred or battles going on. However, there will always be inequalities present. Whether it be the whites being favored over the blacks or vice versa, there will always be inequalities present. Like Zinn stated, what happened in history was not natural and there are other possibilities, and those possibilities are being discovered and worked through today. However, Zinn also stated that they would not be easy to work through, so it takes time.
I thought that this article was a very good article. I liked how he started with a question as his thesis to get us thinking and then brought us through the history of what happened that might help us answer this question. I also like how he then, in the end, made a point that there are other ways of how history could have worked out, and that it is something that can be fixed, but will take time. I feel like it was a very accurate and not biased article and that’s what I liked about it.

Monday, August 27, 2007

The "Tempest" in the Wilderness

It the article The “Tempest” in the Wilderness Ronald Takaki shows how Shakespeare’s play titled The Tempest served as a “masquerade for the creation of a new society in America.” Through Shakespeare’s play he presents circumstances that the English were going through with their new inhabitants and also circumstances that they will find occurring in the future. The story was about how Prospero and how he took possession of an island that was previously inhabited by Caliban. Throughout this play and the article Takaki and Shakespeare are presenting ways that the English and Prospero tried to rationalize the Indians’ and Caliban’s savagery.
To begin, the English encountered the Irish who, like the Caliban, were viewed at savages and the English believed that they were very uncivilized because they did not have manners or the knowledge of God. To the Englishmen these concepts were very important to them so when they encountered the Irish, they believed that they were living like beasts and were thought to be barbarous. So because the English viewed the Irish as savages, they made laws stating that no Englishman is allowed to marry someone who is Irish. The colonist also were very violent towards they Irish and did things such as burn their crops and slaughtered people and kept their heads trophies. However, this was their way of rationalizing the fact that the Irish were salvages and barbarous so there was no need to treat them like humans.
When the English came across the Indians they found that the Indians reminded them a lot of the Irish in the fact that they too were savages. To the English, the Indians seemed to lack everything that they deemed important. Such qualities like Christianity, cities, letters, and swords, that were a very big part of the English life, were completely missing from the Indians’. The native people were viewed as the “other” as was Caliban in The Tempest. The English took away the Indians land for a long time, even when Jefferson was president and he told the Indians that their land was their own and the colonist would not try and take their land from them, but then Jefferson went behind the Indians’ backs and tried to create conditions that would make the Indians willing to sell their land. The English turned what was once ‘the wilderness’ into a market area and took over the Indians land too hunt and grow crops, which caused the Indians population to decrease. However, the English still saw nothing wrong with treating the Indians this way because they were ignorant heathens.
In the end, it is truly okay to treat humans with little respect just because they do not have the same beliefs, priorities, or values as one does? If we were to treat people today, the way the colonist treated the Indians then, the United States would not be the melting pot that we have become. Everyone would have to share the same beliefs such as religion, family values, work values, and life goals. This is truly unrealistic and in no way would it ever happen. Also, it’s not only that it’s unrealistic that we would all have the same beliefs, but it’s truly wrong to kill such a large population of people just because you find them below you. However, this is an example of how we have learned from our past and have become better because of it. We know now that what happened between the Indians and the English was wrong and we would not allowed that to happen again.
I think that this article was very long and drawn out. I felt like it was doing a lot of repeating throughout the article and did not present much new information, only went on about similar things. I thought that it was interesting however, that they mentioned the incident with Christopher Columbus as well.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Zinn Response

In Howard Zinn’s article A People’s History of the United States he states that he believes that in telling history it is important that we accept atrocities as a “deplorable but necessary price to pay for progress” (Zinn 10). Also Zinn believes that history should emphasize new possibilities by being creative and anticipate that future without denying the past. In other words Zinn believes that we should not try and hide the truth even if it is brutal and that we must learn from the past.
One example that Zinn uses throughout his entire article is Christopher Columbus’ trip to the Americas. The story that we learn as children in school portrays Columbus as a hero when in reality he did harsh and brutal things to the native people. Columbus used the Indians as slaves to look for gold that he promised to the king and queen. He took some of then Arawak Indians aboard his ship to show him to the source of gold. While not only using the Indians as slaves, he would use women and children for sex and labor and also he ordered anyone who was 14-years-old or older to collect certain quantities of gold each day and if they did not meet the quota he would chop off their hands and they would bleed to death. After all said and done, the population of the native people dwindled and ceased to procreate. However, this is not the story that we hear in middle school or high school, instead we see Columbus portrayed as a hero and we celebrate his doings each year on Columbus Day.
Zinn thinks that it would be more appropriate and beneficial if the truth would have been told about Columbus and his voyage. He believes that it is important to show that atrocities are a necessary price to pay if we want to make progress. However, by hiding what truly happened we are unable to truly learn history and understand what really happened. Zinn states that it may be beneficial if we could see history from the standpoint of others. Such as what the slaves thought of the Constitution or how the Cubans felt about the Spanish-American War, or World War I as seen by the socialist.
However, seeing history from ‘the other side’ may not always be a bad idea. It is important that as a nation we support what is being done. If we viewed history from the other side, it may seem as though things will never be solved. We would question what is being done and our nation would also be torn between what we are doing and how it’s affecting the other party. If many Americans believed what Columbus did was wrong, we may not even have an American today. I think it is important as a nation to stick together. During this time of war, when everyone has very opposing views, it is still important that we support our soldiers and what they are doing over there. They need our support more than anything and it is important to stick together as a nation.
I enjoyed the reading because I had no idea that is what really happened. It was interesting to learn a whole new side of a story that I was taught all of my life. However, I still believe it is in the best interest to stick to the original story and it is too late to go and try and change what everyone has been taught so far.

About Me

My name is Michelle Ranly. I am currently a junior at BGSU and I am a journalism major specializing in public relations. I live in a house with seven other girls and we like to have fun. I work for the Office of Academic Enhancement on campus working with students who are undecided in a major. I am originally from Minster, OH which is a very small town that is one square mile. In my free time I like to run, shop, and have fun.