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Archive for the ‘race and racism’ Category

Previously this semester, I came across a blog post written by one of my peers surrounding the issue of tyranny. This student had connected Machiavelli’s view on tyrannical power with a recent episode of House M.D., a popular television show that is part of the Fox Network. Being a devoted fan of the House M.D. series, I began thinking about how this particular episode connected to our other readings, specifically Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s piece “Letter From Birmingham Jail”. Based on my observations, I have found that Dr. King would deem Dr. Chase’s actions in this episode unacceptable, because they do not follow his regulations about how to conduct a proper protest.

On this particular episode, Dr. House and his team have the unique opportunity of treating a violent leader of a nation in Africa. During his visit to the United States, he experiences health complications that land him in Princeton Plainsboro Teaching Hospital. The leader’s goal is to return to a healthy state so he can return to his country and execute thousands of innocent minorities that he believes are having a negative impact on his nation. During his treatment, Dr. Chase is involved in an argument with him because the leader tries to convince chase that the execution of these people will be done for the good of the country. After a correct diagnosis is reached, Dr. Chase takes it upon himself to alter a blood test, which leads to the purposeful death of the tyrant.

In “Letter From Birmingham Jail” Dr. King indicates what he believes is the correct way to stage a protest. He designates four stages in the process: collection of facts, negotiation, self-purification, and direct action. Unlike Dr. Chase, Dr. King’s protests are always nonviolent, but that does not stop him from taking what he calls “direct action”. One might interpret this to be similar to what Dr. Chase takes on: substituting beneficial negotiation for a sometimes-violent action on the part of the opposition- but Dr. King’s form of direct action is different. He defines it as “presenting our very bodies as a means of laying our case before the conscience of the local and the national community”. Examples of this would include staging sit-ins, marches, or boycotting certain services. The difference between Chase and King’s version of protests are that Dr. Chase is in no way sacrificing anything himself. Dr. King emphasizes the importance of “presenting our very bodies”, and being vulnerable but ready to accept any consequences that may come of their actions. Dr. Chase on the other hand, plans only to execute and hide, ultimately escaping any punishment he deserves.

Another important difference between these two “protesters” are they’re views on the negotiation component of a proper protest. Dr. King views negotiation as a precursor to action. In his piece, he explains his interaction with members of the economic community in Birmingham, and how their promises soon turned out to be broken. These instances are what push non-violent protestors into action, but only if there is no possible way to effectively communicate their needs to the majority. Dr. Chase, on the other hand, reserves no room for communication or the proper steps preceding direct action. As a result, he takes the wrong path and ultimately commits a crime that he is unwilling to accept the consequences for, and will end his career entirely.

All in all, Dr. King and Dr. Chase vary in the ways in which they chose to take action in a “positive” way. Although Dr. Chase’s intentions may be honorable, we have learned from many past political figures that no one man can take away the rights of another, and that is what Chase does. Ultimately, it comes down to the issue of respect: Dr. King was wise enough to see that a respectful opposition- that is, not infringing on the rights of others- to rules he sees as oppressive is the best course of action. It is as we learned in kindergarten: treat other’s how you want to be treated.

Works Cited

Jr., Dr. Martin Luther King. “Letter From Birmingham Jail.” (1963).

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There is no denying that Malcolm X was a deafening voice in the pursuit of social justice for blacks in the sixties. Unlike Dr. Martin Luther King, he sought equality “by whatever means necessary.” He claimed “the ballot or the bullet,” during his infamous speech, in order to spread the idea of Black Nationalism among his fellow African Americans.

A grave mistake Malcolm X made during his preaching was his identification as a nonAmerican. He announces that he is, instead, simply an African surviving in the United States and demands that his fellow African Americans also drop the “Americans” from their identification. Once they have done so, they must come together in order to destroy “the evils that are destroying the moral fiber of our community.” This, according to Malcolm X, is Black Nationalism.

I do not, for even a moment, doubt the social injustices of African Americans were once monstrous. I even agree with the idea of Black Nationalism: the support of the African American community to create civil equality. What I have troubles identifying with, however, is Malcolm X’s detest of the American title.

I must, once again, compare this civil rights battle to the struggle for gay rights in our country. While I am, unfortunately, not an active protester for gay marriage, I do understand what is necessary to accomplish equality for the sexual minorities. One of these necessities is the importance of identifying with and finding similarities to the majority. Unfortunately, we live in a society where the majority decides the rights and fates of the minorities. I find, as a lesbian, when defending my rights to marriage to someone of heterosexual identification, I claim that I should be able to marry and receive marital benefits just as they are allowed the opportunity because, like them, I am a citizen of a country that seeks equality. This common identification that homo- and heterosexuals share allows the majority to see similarities in the minorities.

This is why I believe Malcolm X’s misidentification was a complete failure. In order for whites (the majority) to understand the need for social equality for the blacks (the minority) they must be able to identify with them. Malcolm X merely further segregated his own people.

Black Nationalism is as much of a necessity as prevalent LGBTQ communities are. These groups are established in order to accentuate a cause and also to provide support for one another during the fight. I will agree that social justice is worth an actual fight, and I would even go as far as to agree that “any means necessary” could be effective; however, in order to be effective, one must not segregate his cause.

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White Out

Generally we as a society would like to believe that we are past racism. Despite our intimate relationship with slavery and our history of oppressing those not considered “racially adequate” (i.e. “not white”), we have since progressed into a tightly bonded nation. As a sophisticated society, we promote equality, respect and opportunity for all despite race, ethnicity or religion. We are America, the melting pot of the world, the land of opportunity, the home of the free. However, despite our positive stigma, I feel like those past ideologies of “white supremacy” are still lingering in the back of our minds when it comes to African-American culture, like it has to be taken out of its original context to be transformed into a more “white version,” to be publicly acceptable…

American Airlines in 1981 was being sued by one of their former employees because she violated their grooming policy by adorning an all-braided hairstyle. The plaintiff, Roger’s, asserted that the “corn row” style was significant to black women in that it was “reflective of [the] cultural, historical essence of the Black women in American society” and that American Airlines was discriminating against her as a black woman.  Although American Airlines never blatantly states that they would like their employees to wear a more “white friendly” hairstyle, they instead state that they would prefer their employees to wear their hair “[in] a bun and wrap a hairpiece around the bun during working hours.” Rogers loss, however her case sparked a critique by Professor Paulette M. Caldwell, in which she notes the lack of credit African-American culture receives in this case. Caldwell notes the court’s assumption that both black and white women are equally motivated to adopt braided hairstyles, not that Rogers’ all-braided hairstyle was apart of her racial identity as a black woman. Instead the court argues that Rogers wore her all-braided hairstyle because it was “popularized” Bo Derek, a white actress. In this case, the identity of an African-American woman as expressed by her hairstyle was overlooked and ultimately cost left her unemployed. To make matters worse, the court’s assumption that Rogers adopted her all-braided style because a white actress popularized acted almost as a slap in the face to African-American culture.

Although this strays away from the topic of distorting African-American culture, it does relate to the overall topic of “whitening” issues in society to make them more acceptable. Beth Richie, an African-American feminist, discusses the anti-violence movement in relation to African-American women. Typically, domestic violence occurs in  areas that are lacking resources within poor families. Initially the phrase “It can happen to anyone” forced America to realize that abuse can happen to not only to poor African-American women, but to white middle class women as well, drawing more attention to the issue. However, by focusing on white middle class women as the main audience for abuse, the original victims are being left out of the picture. Domestic violence movements are ran primarily by white women and promoting the use of law enforcement in situations of domestic violence. However, African-American women find that violence can occur even through the police, that they can do more harm than good with police brutality and dual arrest.

Overall as a society I believe that we do a good job at being tolerant toward others who are different than ourselves. However, sometimes I feel like we don’t take into account the affect our actions or assumptions have on others.

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While I don’t normally agree with David Brooks, I thought his column today was interesting, and I was wondering what you thought. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/18/opinion/18brooks.html?em

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In our lectures and discussions, we’ve heard about how Socrates was searching for the truth. Recently, America had an excellent example of how not to be honest, when Congressman Joe Wilson of South Carolina yelled “You lie!” at President Barack Obama during his (honest) speech to Congress on health care reform. 

The outburst was rude, undeniably so, and a breach of decorum, however in an Op-Ed for The New York Times, writer Maureen Dowd took the outburst one step further: she insisted it was also racist, by claiming that the unsaid word Congressman Wilson wanted to say was “boy” turning his outburst into “You lie boy!”.

Making a statement solely around changing a direct quote is not a sound way to create an argument; in fact, it’s also a lie (deja vu!). So, do two lies make a truth? The answer is unsurprisingly: no.

Socrates also provided some necessary opposition to the government (in a unique fashion). Was he always correct? Arguably not, but he still questioned, something every government needs, for the good of the people, and for the good of the government, too (Republicans probably wish they’d questioned George Bush a bit more). 

In her article Maureen Dowd continues on past Congressman Wilson, and argues that all the Republican (and many Democrat) questions about health care reform can simply be written off as the “frothing response from paranoids.” Of course, history has shown that governments always do the best for their citizens when they are unquestioned and have absolute power.

Socrates showed us the importance of seeking the truth and the importance of questioning our leaders. This country is set up so people and parties can do both, in the hopes to avoid things going wrong, or angering a large part of the population. Maureen Dowd exercised her right of free speech when she wrote her article, but we have the right to point out that she appeared to forget these basic facts about our nation when she suddenly heard a racist term coming out of Congressman Wilson’s mouth, one that no one else can recall.

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