Author Archives: Hannah Levine

Thinking Critically

The podcast and the sections we read from Impossible did a great job tying together the lessons we talked about at the beginning of the semester with Doing Good Better, and how that relates to us as Leadership Studies students. Society constantly pushes us to only pay attention to the single leaders: the ones who are written about in history books and make headlines in the news. But as we know, leadership comes in so many more forms. These figureheads are important, but as Professor Bezio said, they are just the tip of the iceberg.

The sections from Impossible remind us that we all have the power, and an obligation to use our power to do good. We don’t have to wait around for one leader to come in and make a change, we can start making little changes on our own. As I was reading the excerpts, I kept thinking about the lesson I learned in elementary school about spreading acts of kindness. There was a viral video we used to watch that started with one person doing something nice for someone else, and it set off a chain reaction for each person to do one good deed. It is such a simple message, but it really works: do one nice thing for someone else, and good things will follow. From the lessons of Impossible and Doing Good Better,we need to use whatever we have available to us and start there.

Childish Gambino: “This is America”

We have talked in class a lot about how important it is to evaluate pieces of pop culture, such as a song, within their historical context. Today, music videos commonly accompany popular songs, but not every song gets a music video. Furthermore, I think it is fair to assume that not every song’s music video is expected to be watched as often as the song is likely to be listened to, and listening to the song will probably happen for most before they watch the music video.

With a song like Childish Gambino’s “This is America,” its music video provides context for the song that is easily missed by solely listening. We talked last week about how entertainment is never just entertainment. I think that music especially can be hard to think about the weight of the lyrics if the tune is catchy. However, I wonder if that is Gambino’s message. In just listening to the upbeat tunes that transcend the length of the song, it can easy to miss what the lyrics are really saying. When coupling it with its music video, which is made for the purpose of showing what Gambinos hopes to associate his song with,  his message rings loud and clear: the reality for Black Americans in America is hidden, missed, ignored, coated over, and so on… Furthermore, Gambino’s juxtaposition of upbeat tunes. supported with dancing and happy expressions, with the actual lyrics talking about what America really is reveals the expectations put on Black Americans to accept injustice and continue on with a smile, in the same way that Reconstruction attempted to reframe slaves as happy in their enslavement, and not ready for full emancipation, hence the need for Jim Crow laws.

Ladan Osman’s essay gives an even more detailed interpretation of the music video in the context of August 2018. She makes references to pop culture, like Vine in describing the casualness of the students dancing behind Gambino, and Grand Theft Auto in describing the commotion of veering cars and people waving objects (a video game that normalizes violence), and an ode to the Charleston church massacre. Therefore, in taking into account the ways in which Gambino’s scenes and music work in the context of 2018, his music video delivers an even stronger message. Looking back at the video from 2021, his message about America is even more relevant as police brutality increases more each day, and as justice continues to be denied, life goes on.

The Yellow Wallpaper

I read the story before I listened to the podcast, and I assumed that Charlotte Perkins Gilman was using a fictional story of a woman being locked in a nursery to make a commentary on domesticity and a sense of being controlled by a mother’s societal role and expectations.  Although these things are true for the story, I was really surprised that Gilman was actually writing about her lived experience of being forced into solitude and a life of domesticity to “heal” from a mental illness. My initial analysis of the story aligns with Professor Bezio’s bonus step for close reading: I attached a new meaning onto Gilman’s writing that mattered and made sense to me. Reading this story from the context of 2021, when mental health is no longer treated as being crazy, especially for women, I was able to look at The Yellow Wallpaper through a different lens. However, as the podcast explained, in the context of the 19th century, women who read The Yelllow Wallpaper understood Gilman’s experience, and those in similar positions were able to use the lessons they got out of it to enhance their own lives. One woman who was in solitude for a medical condition even faked being crazy, like the woman in the story, to break free from her bed rest and, unsurprisingly, was able to live a normal life outside of her bondage.

Podcast 10

The story about Robin Hood’s beginnings was so interesting — I had never heard about how far it dates back. I think it is cool that something like Robin Hood can be adapted throughout 8 centuries to still make sense and retain its popularity and importance for the general public, or the “common” people. However, it also reveals how themes of class difference, elitism, and wealth inequality persist throughout history. The discussion of Robin Hood and its connection to the time period that it is adapted for reminded me of our conversation about history last week. It is impossible to separate history from its context because those things inform it. Furthermore, history is a story, and every story has its storytellers. Robin Hood has a history, but it also tells a history of pop culture.

Although Robin Hood for the most part seemed to have passed along “common” people as it adapted over time, the entertainment industry has a stronghold over popular culture. It is scary to think about how entertainment is marketed for specific audiences to instill a desired emotion. Additionally, the entertainment industry contributes to confirmation bias, or our tendencies to view content that fits into our pre-existing views. However, like we talked about previously in class, exposure to other ideas and other people is the most important way to reduce bias. The entertainment industry subconsciously aids our biases by targeting entertainment toward specific populations and neglecting others.

Podcast Episode 9

As a history and leadership studies double major, I especially enjoyed listening to this podcast. I chose to pair history and leadership for what Professor Bezio said at the beginning of the episode: understanding the history behind something helps us better understand that something. I am especially interested in looking at how policy decisions transcend history impact lives today in ways that are often unrecognizable. I took justice with Professor Williamson last semester, and we spent much of the class talking about these issues. Professor Hayter’s introduction touches on RVA’s coded redistricting. Although he looks at it through the lens of restricted voting rights for Richmond’s black community, in Williamson’s class, we looked at the redistricting impacts on Richmond’s Public School system.

RPS is significantly more diverse than Richmond’s suburban public schools, has drastically lower budgets, small engagement in PTA, and reports lower test scores and graduation rates. The impacts of Richmond’s housing redistricting, which destroyed housing projects for marginalized communities and built highways to give suburban residents direct access to the city while also encouraging movement to the suburbs (where wealthier, whiter residents reside), which in turn eliminated the people left in the housing project’s walkable access to downtown helps to explain the disparities in Richmond’s public education. Furthermore, the Plessy v. Ferguson decision, which allowed for Southern politicians to continue to segregation efforts via loopholes, such as restricting public bus access, in conjunction with RVA’s housing developments reveals these disparities. As for Hayter’s argument regarding voting, this marginalization of Richmond’s black communities left the public schools voiceless in being able to make changes for themselves. The efforts of Southern politicians in Richmond to continue racism, discrimination, and oppression have long-lasting impacts that affect the same communities today. For this reason, it is incredibly important to learn about and study history in order to understand why the problems that we have today exist, and how to solve them.

Systemic Issues

The introduction of systems theory and the homeostatic feedback loop is really helpful in thinking about leadership and structural problems within a society. By imagining systems, such as Professor Bezio’s example of the educational system, as “living” things that can self-regulate, the long-term impacts of decision-making by leaders become more clear. For her example, Prof. Bezio explains that the education system needs some input to maintain the level of health that will allow it to operate. This input comes in the form of money and teachers. However, anything beyond what is needed to keep the education system running, like technology updates and diversity laws, and standardized testing, is not “necessary.” The education system will continue to work just off of inputs, even if it is not working right or effectively. Therefore, updates to systems carry an incredible amount of weight, because not only are they not “necessary,” but they can also be destabilizing and detrimental.

The reading uses the example of the Moro community to demonstrate how these updates, while seemingly positive in the short term, can often have long-lasting negative effects that were not intended. This example reminded me so much of MacAskill’s Doing Good Better, and the PlayPump. I think that his message of effective altruism applies beyond making charitable donations to policy work, such as reforming the education system. We shouldn’t just make decisions because they seem good, we should make decisions that are the most good for both the present and the future.

Tiffany’s Advertisement

Apart from being an advertisement that my family friend produced, I really love the way that this video puts a modern twist on “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” As a cult classic movie, both the older and younger generations likely would have picked up on the reference. Furthermore, the use of Elle Fanning and ASAP Ferg makes Tiffany’s as a company more appealing and accessible to the younger generations, rather than available only to those who are wealthy and/or celebrating a special occasion such as an engagement or a birthday. Using such a well-known actress as Elle Fanning probably initially drew in the population who would recognize her, and then the shift in music to ASAP Freg must have drawn in the attention of other viewers. Furthermore, the dancing with the crowds of all ages is fun and upbeat, giving the video a sense of freshness in alignment with the floral arrangements behind many of the scenes. Finally, the use of “Tiffany blue,” Tiffany’s well-known marketing strategy, is exaggerated throughout the entire advertisement facilitating the connection between Tiffany’s and modernization.


Food Guide Pyramid - an overview | ScienceDirect Topics


I chose this commonly used chart that depicts what healthy eating the United States should look like. Off the batt, I noticed that the pyramid only lists five good groups, but reveals six divisions of color, with the smallest section being the yellow one–a section that is unlabeled. I wonder if yellow is supposed to represent a room in one’s diet for more unhealthy foods, but it seems pretty ambiguous. I also think that the tagline “steps to a healthier you” is misleading, because the chart does not discuss other aspects of health such as exercise, sleep, and therapy. Rather, it shows a figure walking up to the top of the pyramid, implying that if you eat these foods, you will be at peak health. Furthermore. the width of each section within the pyramid does not adequately reveal how much of these foods one should eat. Finally, it refers to the dairy section as solely “milk” and the protein section as “meat & beans,” leaving out options for people with diatary restrictions. The MyPlate graphic was developed in response to the misleading information within this graph.

Renaming Buildings on Campus

My semester-long research project is actually on the removal of confederate monuments in the United States, with Richmond and New Orleans serving as focal points. Going to a college located within a city with such a complicated history makes my research even more meaningful, as we continue to grapple with UR’s connection to slavery and the confederacy. I remember coming to campus last fall as a freshman and hearing rumors about an uncovered burial ground on our campus for slaves. It was not until January that President Crutcher released a statement declaring that there was enough evidence to assume that not only is UR built on a slave graveyard, but also a former plantation. Like with much of the history of people of color throughout the United States, these former slaves’ names and lives have been forgotten. Our conversations and push to rename Ryland and Freemen are important–I think the University made a huge mistake in not entirely giving these buildings a new name to represent other important figures in Richmond’s history. Freemen and Ryland are branded with a refusal to acknowledge our history. However, there are much larger consequences of not acknowledging the University’s contribution to racism and oppression–the names of the slaves buried beneath our feet and those who worked on our land will continue to be forgotten.

Podcast Three: Making Assumptions

I really enjoyed listening to this podcast about how assumptions and biases are carried out into policies that continue to impact lives long after science disproves them. In my cultural studies class freshmen year, we talked a lot about the way illegal drugs have infiltrated marginalized communities across the United States, specifically black and Hispanic communities, leading to exponentially high rates of incarceration. Although in that class, we talked more about the way drugs entered these communities (at times on the part of the government), I think it is incredibly interesting to learn about the policies that have followed. For example, Professor Bezio discussed the 1930s and 1940s target campaigns against immigration, in which the government linked marijuana to black and Hispanic populations.

These stereotypes that were written into law in the 20th century have become biases that continue to dilute American’s perceptions of drug use and drug users. This was facilitated by the government’s advice in the 1930s and 40s to drug use to “say no,” but provide no accessible services for those who experienced addiction. Thus, there are great disparities in access to adequate rehabilitation and help for those who need it, as well as taboos about addiction. Furthermore, the conversation about establishing free addiction centers has become increasingly divided despite any evidence that addiction centers are necessary and good.