• Monthly Archives: May 2015

Rachel Watson

In looking at the presentation put on by Rachel Watson, I had mixed feelings. To start of with, I thought she was beyond intelligent. She knew so much about the topic and so much information, it was almost overwhelming. I feel like it was hard for her to put it into a way that people could understand. I felt that the only reason I understood was due to my background with a medical examiner and actually being on numerous crime scenes. I wish she would have added more pictures, especially a picture or video of Emmett Till or Betsy. While she constantly referred to them, I didn’t know what either of them were. Overall, I thought she had very good information and she was an extremely speaker, I just wish she would have had more visual and not as much words on the slides. I enjoyed that it mixed into my criminology class as well, and in working with the District Attorney’s office and the different laws.

Native American Mascots

One thing that we did not really touch on in class is the use of Native Americans as mascots. I should first mention that I disagree with this concept completely. A few weeks ago I attended a conference and had the pleasure of hearing a Native American woman by the name of Suzan Shown Harjo speak on this issue. One thing that Harjo said that really stuck with me was, “If you want to honor us, name a school after us.” As I thought more about what she said, I started to agree with it more. I have never heard of any schools named after Native Americans. I never understood why people thought it was okay to use a group of people’s culture as entertainment for sports. I recently read an article about a local school that got to keep their mascot. After reading this article, I read the comments and I was disgusted. Alumni of this school were commenting on how changing the mascot should not have even been considered and how that mascot was a part of their history. I am not Native, but I found these comments offensive. In my opinion, I feel that those who are responsible for the decision to keep these mascots want to feel a sense of ownership. I don’t feel as if these people care about the history of the school, I feel as if it is deeper than that. Even if it is not deeper than this, I’m still unsure of why these people have been so firm with their decisions to keep these mascots.

If we believe that we have schools and institutions that are unbiased and do not teach hate, what does this tell us? Why is this an issue if people of this background are fighting and telling the majority that these mascots are offensive? Do you think that there is more behind the reasonings of keeping these mascots?

Nichols Reflection

I found John Nichols lecture on Socialism in America to be extremely interesting. One point that interested me that Nichols brought up was his thoughts on ideas in this country. When he said, “Washington is where good ideas go to die”, I was kind of taken aback by it. But then, I thought about it and it’s really (sadly) the case. One reason for this he argued is because of the fact that we ignore good ideas sometimes because of fear. He said that borrowing ideas from different ideologies is a good thing, almost necessary, but no one will do it because if you borrow a good socialist idea, then you must be a socialist! A good idea, in politics anyway, is never just looked at as a good idea. He argued that mere associations with these ideas don’t make a person part of the group necessarily. Something I found interesting regarding this was his example that dealt with Abraham Lincoln. I learned that during his presidency, his White House aide had also been Karl Marx’s editor. His (Lincoln’s) association with her doesn’t make him communist. If the nation wants to progress, which it obviously does, we have to be able to at least discuss different ideas of different ideologies.

Another reason for Washington being the place where good ideas go to die is the fact that politics are so drastically tainted by money. Money and the media drive politics, and those two things are partially responsible for pushing good ideas away. He discussed how corporations and wealthy individuals ultimately control the government, and this too pushes good ideas away. I read the book The Corporation earlier this semester, and after reading it I relate a lot of things I hear back to the book, this lecture being one of those things. It’s definitely true that corporations and money sway the government heavily in general, which Bakan discusses in The Corporation. I loved when Nichols said, “politics is marinated in money” and that no matter what you do, every time you take a bite of politics there’s always the taste of money. I thought that analogy was not only interesting but also extremely accurate, and that’s what Bakan was saying in his book.

Overall I’m glad I attended this lecture. John Nichols was a great speaker and his enthusiasm on the topic made it enjoyable to sit and listen to him speak. It was, for lack of a better word, cool to be able to make connections from what he was saying to books I’ve read and to things we’ve discussed in class.

Civil Disobedience

Selma and Capitol Staffers Protests

Selma March 1965 (Top); Congressional “Hands up” Protest 2014 (Bottom)

Civil Disobedience

Is it perhaps a traditional of civil disobedience that makes the United States
unique? What policies and movements have developed from this position? What
is the future of american political life?

Throughout history, when a group of marginalized people feel as though their rights are being threatened by the laws that govern them, they disobey from the beginning of the American Revolution until current times during the Baltimore Protests, part of the larger Black Lives Matter movement. A great example of civil disobedience in history is during the Civil Rights Movement in 1965, starring historical figures such as John Lewis, Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr. Although each activist had a different stance on civil disobedience and how it should be conveyed and acted out, they each took part in it.

In Martin Luther King Jr.’s letter, he writes to disgruntled clergymen who criticized his efforts in peaceful protests and demonstrations against violence. He despises the idea that anyone can be an outsider within their own country; wherever there is an injustice, he feels as though he has a right to be there to fix the injustice. Importantly, he then writes, “You deplore the demonstrations that are presently taking place in Birmingham. But I am sorry that your statement did not express a similar concern for the conditions that brought the demonstrations into being” (579). He honestly believed that nonviolence was a means of solving the injustice and would spark negotiation between those of power and the protestors: “It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored” (579). Additionally, he goes on to explain the difference between a law and an unjust law, emphasizing that civil disobedience is okay when acting against an unjust law: “I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and willingly accepts the penalty by staying in jail to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the very highest respect for law” (582).

Today, unfortunately, we can see that MLK’s words still remain prevalent during current civil disobedience demonstrations, which indeed have turned violent due to the arguable injustices caused by those in power, particularly America’s current policing system. Policy-wise, people are legally allowed to peacefully protest and gather for a cause. However, these protests have been met with resistance, which has led to the violent outcry we currently see on our televisions, social media, and news outlets. What is the future of American political life? I am not sure, but from history, I do know it will be filled with anguish and struggle between the oppressed trying to dismantle the same system that the oppressors will fight to uphold.

Going back to MLK’s letter, when he says “you deplore the demonstrations that are presently taking place in Birmingham. But I am sorry that your statement did not express a similar concern for the conditions that brought the demonstrations into being,” can that apply to what is currently happening in Baltimore, Ferguson, or any other place where people are protesting out of fear, anger, and a passion for justice?

Image: http://newsone.com/3077463/nonviolent-protest-training-selma-marchon/

American Activism

The future American politics will be an ever changing one and change rapidly during the next twenty years. The reason being is because America is becoming much more diverse in terms of other cultures becoming engrained into the American lifestyle. Politicians will have to adapt to this change because if they don’t, their chances of becoming an American president are going to be slim to none. As conservatism is slowly deteriorating in regards to last one hundred and twenty years, America is becoming leaning towards liberal policies. As an implementation of the HealthCare system, the changing perspective on gay marriage, and other major issues, have America at an important time in American history. We are becoming much more tolerant in terms of social issues and more than the baby boomers tolerance levels. Although I can see if future presidents take a progressive approach on certain policies, I can see the American voter voice their opinion in terms of opposing those types of policy making decisions and in then hand voting for a more conservative approach. I shouldn’t say conservative but a more moderate approach to the way things are being implemented. Politics in America has a very diverse outlook in the future. Do you think American politics will gain or lose influence with newer generations?

Civil Disobedience

When it comes to change in America I think civil disobedience had become a common thing. In my opinion, civil disobedience is sometimes the only way to get your point accross. Recently we have seen instances of this in places like Baltimore and Ferguson. While there have been peaceful protests going on, many people tend to only focus on the negative. One thing that I have noticed on social media is that there have been many pictures and quotes floating around about Dr. King and how he would want peaceful protests. Dr. King was not the only “blacktivist” there was. Malcolm X was also played a very huge role in the black communities, and he was not considered “peaceful” like Dr. King was. Civil disobedience was Rosa Parks not giving up her seat on the bus knowing the consequences. When people are fed up, you cannot expect them to obey any laws. Civil disobedience is blacks sitting at all white lunch counters. In my opinion, if it was not for people rebelling we would not be where we are today. Do you think the recent civil disobedience that has taken place in Baltimore and Ferguson will help change our institutions? If so, how do you think that they will change?

How could this be happening in a US major city? (Again)

“How could this be happening in a US major city?” This was the question that many newscasters were asking during the protests and violence in Baltimore. Many compared the violence and unrest in Baltimore to the violence and unrest in cities during the Civil Rights Movements, and many believed that the Civil Rights Movement was the last time this has happened. On the Daily Show, Jon Steward tells us a different story.

The story Jon tells us is one of historically unrest and violence in major US cities after the Civil Rights Movement.  Watt in 1965, Augusta in 1970, Miami in 1980, Los Angeles and St. Petersburg in the 1990s, and Ferguson just last year. The news seems to portraying Baltimore as an unprecedented and isolated incident, while Steward is arguing that there has been historical race violence in US cities.

There is a section of Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from the Birmingham City Jail that really speaks to our past and present unrest and violence. In the letter, MLK wrote, “You deplore the demonstrations that are presently taking place in Birmingham. But I am sorry that your statement did not a express a similar concern for the conditions that brought the demonstration into being. I am sure that each of you would want to go beyond the superficial analyst who looks merely at effects and does not grapple with the underlying causes.” (p. 579).

If we continue to ignore the causes of racial violence these events will continue to happen. So what are some of the causes of that lead to present racial violence and what could be some solutions to these problems?

Martin Luther King Jr

Reading MLK Jr’s Letter from Birmingham City Jail is quite moving. It is a hard imagine that it was only 42 years ago that he was writing a letter that detailed his need for peaceful movement against his oppressors. He acknowledged when it was appropriate to break laws,

there are just laws and there are unjust laws. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with Saint Augustine that ‘an unjust law is no law at all’ (Cummings. 2015. p.581)

King continues on talking about oppression and how it affects the oppressed, and their need to express their distaste for the unjust laws against them. King says, “if his repressed emotions do not come out in these nonviolent ways, they will come out in ominous expressions of violence” (Cummings. 2015. p.584). This makes complete and total sense, If I faced the segregation and oppression these people faced, and was not able to express myself hate would not doubt manifest within me and violence would seem like the logical answer.

What comes to mind when reading this is the unrest among the black population in America, while violence is not the answer there is a lot that has led up to the violence. People are naïve to think that 40 years is enough time to heal the wounds of segregation and oppression and that the ripples from it are still not present today.

peaceful-protest-baltimore

Civil Disobedience

When reading Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from the Birmingham City Jail, I was struck by the parallels between the conditions that led to the protests in Birmingham and the conditions in Baltimore. King addresses the people who are concerned by the violence taking place there in order to subsist the segregation taking place.(Cummings 579) Though the sections caused by redlining in Baltimore are not actual, physical red lines drawn plainly in the dirt, West Baltimore is like a world away from the rest of Baltimore. Many people there live an impoverished existence. Their homes, reminiscent of shacks many times, stand close by things like museums. There was a highway built there that stretched twenty blocks, displacing thousands of black families. It would seem that black families again should not be allowed property, and without property, what sort of worth did they hold in society anyway?

Going back to redlining, in the 1940s, and 1950s, following WW2, banks gave mortgages to white families and a reduced rate that enabled them to buy homes. Black were most times excluded from this privilege, and pushed out into zones around the suburbs which became overcrowded. The people of Baltimore today continue to be affected by the events of yesterday. For them, the structural racism in our society is still very much alive. When they destroy the property all around them, many Americans watching ask “why would they destroy their own property?” Not realizing that a lot of those places belong to corporations, not the people. The right to establish and maintain property as continually been taken from the people. Why should someone follow the law when the law does not benefit them, but only the people who yield property? Why, as Dr. King said, are we not looking at the conditions that resulted in a police state that thinks it isn’t okay to break windows, but not okay to break black bodies? Why instead, do we not question the power our military industrial complex and our police alike have over the rest of the state?

The racism is so embedded, that when I was at an event yesterday at Lawrence University discussing the Baltimore riots, one student said “They not only take away the rights the Constitution says we are allowed. We are convicted upon sight – as soon as our black skin is seen. The media has it so that we fear ourselves.” One major difference between 1960 and today is the way that the media has perfected demonizing the poor of America. They had game before, but today words like thug, which, let’s be honest, is really the new N word, and “riot” are made to strike fear in Americans, so that Americans fear their fellow citizens and not the government, not the corporations that constricts our freedoms and airways like an Anaconda takes its victims – like a police state takes another black life, like Eric Garner, wheezing “I can’t breathe.”

Letter from the Birmingham City Jail

I’ve read this piece before, and I always find it so interesting. It’s amazing to read this, especially in light of the current situation in Baltimore and previous ones as well.

King discusses how people “express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws” (581), especially after they follow the Supreme Court’s desegregation law, but not others. People were concerned that he would break some laws and not others, which he says is a legitimate concern, but he argues that there are two different types of laws: just laws, and unjust laws. He also quotes Saint Augustine when she says, “An unjust law is no law at all” (581). Basically, he wants to expose unjust laws. He argues that they’re really not picking and choosing laws, but that they’re basically saying the entire process is illegitimate.

So, how does King try to change public opinion regarding the cause of civil rights? First, he used the Cold War as an example when he mentions the Hungarian Freedom Fighters. We wouldn’t say the Hungarians were breaking the law (although technically, they were) because we saw the Soviet law as unjust. He also mentions WWII and Hitler, which I think is one of his strongest arguments, by saying, “It was illegal to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. But I am sure that, if I had lived in Germany during that time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers even though it was illegal” (582).

King was nonviolent, so I really thought his approach to “create a tension was interesting. He wanted essentially to create a conflict because it a) gets attention, and b) forces people to confront contradictions. He wanted to keep in nonviolent, but wanted people to really think about things. There was a big injustice and people needed to be forced to confront it.