Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Class Conflicted

In my Educational Psychology class, we have been talking about social development and race relations in the classroom. During two previous classes, we watched Jane Elliott's film: A Class Divided. In this film, Jane Elliott took a class of elementary school children and invoked prejudices within them. On the first day, the blue-eyed children were told that they were smarter and better than the brown-eyed children. On this day, blue-eyed children had exceptional performance on vocabulary and academic tasks, while brown-eyed children showed less progress. The next day, Elliott flipped the script. This time, she told the brown-eyed children that they were smarter and better than the blue-eyed children and that she had made a mistake the day before. It was amazing how quickly the blue-eyed children lost confidence in themselves, while the brown-eyed children did much better than they had done the day before. Jane Elliott taught the children through role play that prejudice is not nice. It was really cute, at the end, how the students promised over and over again that they would never treeat anyone different because of the color of their eyes, or even their skin. Now, it became even more interesting when Elliott replicated this experiment with adults. A group of adults were told that they would be going to a company workshop. So, they signed in and they were given a tag to wear that said brown-eyed or blue-eyed. The brown-eyed people were let into the conference room immediately after sign in while the blue-eyed people were told to stand outside and wait. There was such a large build up of anticipation and anger that the blue-eyed adults were justa bout ready to forcibly storm into the room with everyone else. When Elliott finally let them in, she spoke using discriminatory messages towards the blue-eyed people. This really got them upset. Not to mention the fact that before ever entering the room, they had to adhere to the "Brown-eyes Only" signs on water fountains and sitting areas in the front area of the building.

I would have never imagined, initially, that adults would have such radically defensive behavior in an activity like this as compared to children, but when I thought about it, I figured, "Why Not?!" Adults have seen, experienced, and overcome a lot more than children. What elliott did was that she took the problems with the "American System" and manifested them within a small room filled with the "majority," who had probably never paid enough attention to it or even knew that it existed or what it felt like. Of course being put in the position of the minority and having no choice but to experience the sociocultural shock that Blacks experience everyday is going to be disturbing to middle/upper class white adults.

I think that Jane Elliott's "Class Divided" activity/experiment really goes along with what we talked about in class. "There is nothing wrong with democracy. We just need to make sure we're being democratic." The adults in the study realized that they were not allowed certain privileges and were being looked down upon (or privileged) just because of the color of their eyes. This made them see the larger picture, and one woman in the brown-eyed group even said, after the study, "We couldn't possibly imagine how it is, even from this experience, to wake up the next morning adn still be Black...To wake up everday and know that you are less than..." This study was performed well after the Civil Rights Era. So, isn't this a disclaimer for Conflict Theory within itself??

Saturday, October 23, 2010

"We are the Titans!"

I know you have all seen Remember the Titans at least once. Well, at least I hope you have. At any rate, I was thinking about that movie today (you know with the big MIZZOU game and all that going on), and it crossed my mind that it is extremely relevant to the reading we are doing from Waiting 'Til the Midnight Hour.
In the book, Peniel E. Joseph discusses Malcolm X and his views about other civil rights leaders we have talked about (MLK, Jackie Robinson, etc.). One of the things that struck me is his denial of Jackie Robinson truly being a civil rights leader. According to Malcolm X, Robinson was not a productive leader (nor was King) because they did not use militant actions. While Robinson defended himself by saying that "Malcolm is very militant on Harlem street corners where militancy is not dangerous," it is still shocking to think he is not considered an activist. (Joseph 79)
As I thought about Jackie Robinson, versus the teens in Remember the Titans, I could not help but wonder what Malcolm X would think about that form of civil rights. He does not seem to think that integration truly breeds civil rights (why have coffee next to whites if you are not equal?). Since the team does indeed have fights, and there are some physical ramifications for the African Americans, maybe he would consider it militant enough to pass as helping in the movement. However, it seems to me he would not think that. King, much like Coach Boone, had shots fired at his house and stones thrown through windows. King tried to integrate, much like Boone integrates his team (both in staff and in athletes).
While we have talked about reasons to discredit some of King's leadership, it struck me as odd that someone could not perceive civil rights activism in the students on the team. How is it possible that such a powerful movie could be discredited so easily according to some of the things we have read regarding Malcolm X? I think it is a little bit crazy that two of the most well known leaders could hold such totally inconsistent, conflicting views during the Civil Rights Movement. I do not know that either is entirely right, and I have no idea which side I would choose. In my opinion, I think you need to mix the two tactics together. I think I would start with nonviolence, but it someone shot at me, I would more than likely fight back. Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth.

After having read both about the nonviolent movement and now the militant movement, led by Malcolm X, which method do you think you would use? Which is really more productive, if any?

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Underground Railroad Freedom Center

            Coming to Memphis, and taking the Civil Rights Movement course has, in some ways been a continuation of what I learned growing up in Ohio. Several field trips throughout my education consisted of going to local museums, which were actually 19th century homes that served as Underground Railroad stops for African American slaves escaping from slavery.

            One of the most memorable field trips I took was junior year of high school at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. It was a complete museum depicting African Americans’ journey from slavery to freedom. Although I had been to several Railroad stations previously and had seen many smaller exhibits in regards to the Civil War and slavery in middle school and high school, nothing compared to this exhibit. It was a total illustration of life on a plantation, the dangers of escaping slavery and life after reaching freedom.

            Its location adds to the overall appeal and authenticity of the museum because the Center is in Cincinnati, which is known for being a focal point of activity pertaining to the freedom of slaves in crossing the Ohio River. The museum holds several exhibits with videos illustrating the difficulties of crossing the river without being caught by bounty hunters. It shows what high hopes slaves had of reaching the shore on the other side of the river and their excitement, yet also apprehension, in realizing they were one step closer to being free.

            I didn’t realize how lucky I was to have grown up in an area so directly linked to the freedom of slaves. I took it for granted to go on these types of field trips during the school year. It made it more interesting as a student to read about the topic, then to go to a museum and see the basements in which African Americans hid, sometimes for days, to escape. That is why we are also very fortunate to be taking a civil rights class in a city like Memphis because it was the heart of civil rights and offers so many resources in regards to the movement. Books can only tell you so much, and can only affect you to a certain extent, but sometimes people may forget the books they read, or not understand details clearly. Actually going to places where historical events happened, or places that exhibit important events is so much more beneficial and memorable because you are much more likely to be drawn into the topic. That is why exploring the civil rights’ sites in Memphis is going to be a focus of mine throughout the rest of this semester and into the next because of the lasting impressions they make. 

Segregation in College Campuses

Before I came to college, one of the things I was excited about was meeting different kinds of people from different backgrounds. I even had this image in my head of the circle of friends I would have. There would be a few white and black kids, then some would be Hispanic or Asian, and then some would be from a random country I’ve never even heard of. Sadly, it’s almost impossible for this group of friends to exist because college campuses are structured to be segregated.

Out of high school, I chose to go to USC (the one in California), one of the reasons being it was the most racially and ethnically diverse college I was accepted to. When I first got to campus, I received an invitation to “Black Welcome Week,” which my white roommate did not receive. Black Welcome Week, which I’m pretty sure Rhodes also has, is the first step to racially segregating students at college. While the black students are making only black friends at the Black Welcome Week activities, the white students are off making other white friends at the regular welcome week functions. When I arrived to the first Black Welcome Week barbeque, I found out that many of the students already knew each other because they were all roommates on the African American floor of a dorm called Flour Tower. They then informed me that in Flour tower, there was also a Hispanic student floor and a GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender) floor. I then thought, “wait, so colleges just take all the minority students they can and bunch them up into the dorm on the opposite side of campus as all the other dorms, away from all the other students? That’s kind of messed up.” Yes it is, and it gets even more messed up.

After welcome week was pre-rush week, where every fraternity on the row, a street a couple blocks away where every house is a frat house (in case you didn’t know already), throws a party for four straight nights in a row. While party hopping from house to house, I noticed that none of the black fraternities I had heard so much about during Black Welcome Week had any houses on the row. When I asked a black fraternity member about it, he said that black fraternities have been trying for years to get a house on the row. They raise enough money, they have enough members, and they get everything in order to buy a new house. However, the council of USC fraternities has to come together to discuss the issue of a new house being established on the row, and every time a black fraternity tries to establish one, the white fraternities vote against it. Does this sound like something straight out of our civil rights class? Sure it does. That’s why the row at USC is known in the black community as “Jim Crow Row.”

I later figured out the sad truth that most of the larger universities are socially structured in a similar way. There is a segregated Welcome Week for freshmen, there are white fraternities and black fraternities, there are white parties and black parties, and there are special places on campus where the minority students can be bunched together and hidden away.

Vogue Magazine Cover: LeBron Part II

One day in my Sports Psychology class, the professor showed us a picture of a recent Vogue magazine cover featuring NBA star LeBron James and supermodel/ Tom Brady girlfriend Gisele Bundchen. Our professor gave some background to the picture, saying that it was the first time a black man had ever been on the cover of Vogue. The professor then entertained the students’ thoughts on the cover. My friend Kendral and I, the only students of color in the class, had already heard about the picture and the controversies it was generating and decided to keep quiet in the back to hear what the rest of the class had to say. Some thought the picture was funny, some thought it was scary, and some thought it was cute. Some said LeBron looked huge, scary, and angry, and Gisele looked really good. Some thought it was great for LeBron to be the first black man to make the cover and didn’t see anything wrong with it. Finally, Kendral raised his hand and said that the picture makes LeBron look like King Kong and it’s controversial because portraying black people as monkeys or gorillas is kind of racist.

So is the picture really racist? People who like the picture could say that LeBron’s “pose” is an accurate portrayal of him as a player because the man truly is a beast on the court. You could also say that LeBron is showing a lot of intensity and aggressiveness, which he definitely shows in his game, and that dressing him in a sleeveless warm-up (which I’ll get back to later) helps to portray his strength.

People who hate the picture could see LeBron portrayed as a giant, snarling, black gorilla-man who knows nothing in life but dribbling basketballs and snatching up white women. You could say that the photo makes him look big, dumb, and scary, and is only impressive because it is able to portray every stereotype of a black athlete in one shot.

So who is to blame for this controversial picture making the cover? Is it the people at Vogue, who had failed for over 100 years of the magazine’s existence until this point to put a black man on their cover? Maybe they just thought black people had no style until now? Speaking of style, LeBron is considered to be a fashion-conscious guy and is usually seen looking pretty clean when he’s not in uniform. Not to mention he has his own LBJ23 shoe and clothing line, and happens to be a multimillionaire. So why not dress him up in a suit? Did the Vogue people need him to throw on a sleeveless shirt to remind everyone that all black athletes love to riddle themselves with tattoos these days? The photographer said that she thinks LeBron and Gisele look great together and doesn’t care what anyone else thinks (well lady, they think you’re a racist).

Maybe LeBron is the one to blame, who also said that he doesn’t care what people think and fully approves of the picture. What does this say about him as a person? Is he really as racially conscious as he makes himself appear in Darshan’s post? Maybe not, or maybe this one magazine cover is blown way out of proportion.

look familiar?

How Far have we Really Come?

On December 4, 2006, six black students were convicted of beating a white student, Justin Barker, in the small Louisiana town of Jena. In the months leading up to the confrontation there were several racial events that were believed to have sparked the beating. It started when several black students decided to sit under the tree where white students typically ate. The next morning students came to school to see several nooses hanging from this tree. The white students believed to have hung the noose were suspended for a very short period of time and allowed back to school. Racial tensions rose as there were several off campus fights between black and white students before the assault of Justin Barker. The principle and local authorities contended that Justin Barker’s beating was not related to the noose incident, and five of the Jena six were initially charged with attempted murder for the beating.

This story received massive amounts of media coverage in the months before and after the trials. Many people contend that this beating was a direct result of the escalating racial tensions following the noose incident at the high school. Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and over 15,000 protestors came from all over the country stating that the Jena six was yet another example of African Americans being unfairly treated in the justice system.

Whites in the town of Jena insist that the Justin Barker beating was merely the case of a mugging and had nothing to do with the noose or any of the racial tensions in the town. Blacks seem to see the two incidents as being directly related.

Whether or not you believe the Jena Six case had anything to do with the noose hanging in the tree, it offers a perfect example of racial tensions existing in our country today even to the point of racial terror. The fact that people contend the noose was just a prank and nothing to worry about might be the most concerning of the whole ordeal. Regardless of the reasoning behind the hanging of a noose, there is a sinister meaning behind this symbol. It is the most recognizable symbol for white power and racial terror and brings back images from atrocities committed not too long ago. The noose, the fighting, and the all white jury these boys were tried by, all offer a cold reminder that maybe our country has not come as far as we would like to believe.

Is Obama Next on the Hit List?

Even since before the Civil Rights Movement officially began, hundreds of African Americans were being persecuted for the smallest of reasons. As mentioned in class, the other day, “the point was, there was no point” in the killings of innocent African Americans. One could spend countless hours researching the miniscule actions that African Americans had to pay with their lives. Sadly, these trends did not die out as the Civil Rights Movement began to pick up. African Americans ranging from young children such as Emmitt Till all the way to important leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, were murdered simply because they posed the threat of change. In a notion, it can be assumed that the deaths of these figures did not come in vain as the Civil Rights Movement eventually ended with a successful conclusion. However, the idea that such noble and innocent human beings were being killed simply because they believed in change for a better world is quite haunting. Imagine if this were a reality in today’s world. Unfortunately, this reality is closer to the truth than what most people think.

On January 20, 2009 Barack Obama took his role as the President of the United States. During his campaign journey to assume the role as the first African American President, Obama emphasized that “It’s Time for a Change”. This would become the official slogan for his run to become the President. As America grew to learn more and more about Barack Obama, the parallels to previous civil rights leaders became apparent. Just as Dr. King and Malcolm X were young African Americans leaders striving for a change, Obama was also fighting for a change in the direction that the nation was going. However, the positive parallels were accompanied with the negative. Obama’s opposition was quick to turn back to the old ways, as supporters and Obama became targets of threats and discrimination. In the news article below, MSNBC reported numerous incidents such as the burning of crosses and nooses being hung from the trees of Obama’s supporters. Perhaps one of the most frightening of these reported incidents was the story of Denene Millner. Millner’s daughter was told by another student riding the bus, “ I hope Obama gets assassinated.” Later that night a relative of Milner’s house found her signs supporting Obama trashed across the lawn accompanied by two boxes of pizza full of feces. With events like this taking place, the fear of an assassination attempt on Obama proves to be quite a concern. Will the fate of young Obama become the same as his predecessors? I would hope that after the perils seen during the Civil Rights Era, situations such these would cease to exist. But living in a world where most people fear change, it is sad to say that this idea is not out of question.

American Culture split in two?

Last semester (spring 2010) I worked as an intern for Memphis Heritage Inc. This was a non-profit organization that called for historic preservation of buildings, parks, and neighborhoods around Memphis. I had the pleasure of working with an AP US history class at East High School (majority Black school) on preserving a one room sharecroppers school that used to be on presidents island. This school was a Black school used during the middle of the twentieth century. The plan was to move the schoolhouse onto the East High School campus and make into a museum that would highlight black education in Memphis and the mid-south. One of the most interesting aspects of working with these students was the overall comfort with being in a largely one race school, seeing no need for current integration. The project really opened my eyes to whether society has really come far in integration efforts.

In class we learned that even African Americans weren’t always for integration. Segregation posed a few positive aspects depending on location of residence, but these aspects existed none the less. In many cases the Black schools would be better academically because of few opportunities for educated blacks, who would therefore resort to teaching. The hostility shown by whites when schools integrated must have also had an effect on the African American view of whites as being inhospitable to their black children, furthering reason for segregation.

The situation was not exactly helped during the black power movement which caused for a celebration of black culture and lead to separatist movements such as the one led by Malcolm X. Even though these movements had few members in relation to the black population of the country the impact that the overall black power had on the minds of black gave them a feeling of individuality within American culture. It is this feeling that separates blacks from whites culturally.

This all raises the question of what is American society. While I personally think that American society is mixing of multiple cultures, it is different when one portion of a culture thrives on standing alone. While on the outside it seems that many white have appreciated black culture through music and other means, the students at East High school that I worked with did not seem very interested in mixing their culture with others. Can some aspects of African American culture and thought in this country ever fully mix in because of the unique and oppressed history of African Americans? An argument I have heard by many is if we move away from government policies set up to give African Americans certain advantages because of the harsh ways of the past will racism be less of a problem? A specific example would be if Affirmative action was moved to giving aid purely on socio economic needs rather than race would we as Americans further integrate black, white, Asian, Hispanic and other societies? Or is past history (slavery, Jim Crowe, segregation, etc.) that the civil rights movement fought against too strong to fully mix Black culture and society with the rest of American society?

Civil Rights in Immigration

Coming from West Texas, throughout my life I have seen firsthand another aspect of civil rights struggle, and that would be the influx of Hispanic immigrants into the United States, mainly in my neck of the woods, West Texas. While on the surface immigration does not seem to be a civil rights issue, it has become somewhat of a civil rights issue. There have been many times when I have heard people talk about Hispanics as if they were not people, but just a problem to be dealt with, and I must say it is quite troubling to hear people talk this way about other people. They often do not receive the respect that they deserve. Often this is due to a common assumption by some people that all Hispanics that they encounter are illegal immigrants and breaking the law. However often times this is not the case. While there most definitely are those who have broken the law and come across the border illegally, there still are those who did the process legally and with respect for the law. There are some people out there however who will still judge Hispanics simply by the color of their skin, and not by the content of their character as the great and wise Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said in his famous speech in Washington. They regard all Hispanics as illegals and use it as an excuse to disrespect them. Even if someone is an illegal immigrant however, they should still be treated with the same amount of respect that somebody would expect to receive from somebody else. The reason they came here is so that they can make a living and provide for their family, they are not here to cause trouble. They leave everything that they owned back in their home countries for a better life and they are met by some who treat them as if they are simply another problem. Some politicians do not help this problem at all. Often times they regard and speak of immigrants and nothing more than another political problem on the long list of political and social problems that plague the country. Hopefully through tolerance and understanding we can all come to appreciate and respect each other and our rights and feelings. The civil rights movement did indeed make substantial progress in this area, but there is still more work to be done.