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Author: Alexandra Oloughlin

blog post 11/30

Dear White People offers a new perspective into issues that are still pertinent in today’s society. I personally thought that it was a very effective way of bringing up the conversation on race. In this class we have learned that media plays a large role in contributing to stereotypes, but also has the power to be a great tool at fighting against these stereotypes. It is a less direct way that leaves people more receptive to ideas.

In the same way, the way this film is delivered contributes to its effectiveness. The movie was direct and allowing its message to be clear and prominent. Although I usually don’t like when movies have cliches, I think that they were important to what this movie is trying to get at. Without education, these situations and cliches are very plausible, and attention needs to be brought to the systematic racism in these instances.

I personally think this was a very strong film. Set on a college campus, it is very relevant to our lives as college students and provides more education on how we can avoid unconsciously adding harm. Its power is keeping an important conversation relevant, and addressing it in a receptible manner. It made me want to look into more movies like this to continue educating myself. I went to a boarding school that the student population was not very racially diverse. This was also reflected in the teacher population and was a conversation that we had as a school. It makes me wonder about hiring faculty, and accepting students, and whether race was brought into that decision.

 

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Blog Post 11/16

I really thought that this chapter had a lot of pertinence into the current day, as it discussed protests and elections as well. Zinn claims that the American people had an adversarial culture, something that I think can be a really good thing. Today we are having protests for BLM, something so important, that is going to require the country to change. I think our ability to protest and fight for our rights is something that needs to protected because it is what has led to significant social change in the past. This can be seen in Civil rights, feminist movements, and more.

I thought a really interesting part of Zinn’s chapter was about the election, and how the media said that Bush and Reagan’s elections were landslides when in reality, they did not have overwhelming support. A lot of the country did not vote or had to choose between two people that they did not necessarily love. I feel like this has become a recent trend in politics, that people have felt like they had to vote, but had to choose between two candidates that were not very good. Similar to then, I think people either vote based on policies, or because they really don’t like the other candidate. Why has this become a thing? Why are we not fighting for better candidates?

The last thing Zinn argues is about how when you get down to issues, Democrats and Republicans really are not that different and that the divides and differences in this country come from the class divides in the country as the wealthy and the middle class and the poor all have different priorities that are reflected in their political preferences.

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11/9 Blog Post

The movie Just Mercy gave insight into the flaws that affect the criminal justice system today. The reality is that despite claims of equality, the courts remain biased against people of color, who are way more likely to get incarcerated for a crime that they did not commit or receive a way larger sentence than a white man or woman who committed the same crime. This is deeply wrong, and it makes me curious about what can be done to start changing this. The innocence project is on the right track, but due to resources, is only able to help a tiny percentage of those wronged by the criminal justice system. How do we as a nation, help to  expand the work they are doing?

Something I took away from the reading was the misconception of the phrase “War on Drugs”. When we hear this, we associate it with positive things. Helping everyone by stopping drugs which are bad. Yet this war on drugs brought a lot of harm with it, especially to the colored community. It needs to be acknowledged that everyone grows up in different communities, and are taught different things, and have different opportunities. Although this may seem as unintentional discrimination, I think that Nixon needs to be looked at under a harsher microscope, as he wanted to criminalize heroin and associate that criminilazation with the community of people of color.

Before reading this, if I had heard the term “War on Drugs” I would’ve had a much different reaction then I now do after reading the article. What other terms like this are sugar-coated where it is known as something different from reality? How can we start to change the systems that are rigged against people of color, concerning both drugs and oversentancing?

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Alex OLoughlin 11/2

Platoon by Oliver Stone highlighted and brought attention to the cruel realities of war in Vietnam, and was a testament to what the soldiers had to go through. I think one of the reasons that this film was so raw and powerful came from the fact that Oliver himself went to Vietnam, giving him a unique perspective on just how much the soldiers experienced. It also allowed him to create a tone that could be received well and was respectful towards the people who served in the war, something that goes along with the idea of respecting the soldiers even if they don’t respect the war.

One of the things that I found interesting was the lack of training that these soldiers had towards the style of warfare in Vietnam. The Guerilla Warfare was new and dangerous for the United States who was not familiar with the climate, geography, and tactics. This, combined with the soldier’s attitudes towards war made success very difficult. Chris represents a viewpoint of a lot of the soldiers, who were scared and hated that they were fighting in this war. I think that with all the hard things the soldiers had to go through, and how they did not want to be there, it is so impressive that they kept risking their lives for our country. As my stepdad is in the military, I already had so much respect for the soldiers, but this just increased it.

 

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Blog post for 10/26

Langston Hughes was one of the most influential poets of the twentieth century, and his work is still widely used. His poems were written as a testament to his life as a black man in America, segregated by Jim Crow Laws, and oppressed by systematic discrimination.

One of the poems that really spoke out to me was Will V-Day be Me-Day Too? This poem highlights the real struggle of black Americans during times of war. Black men were expected to go to other countries and fight for America. To risk their lives for a country that treated them with hate, and oppressed them for its entire existence. Hughes says, “When I’ve helped this world to save, Shall I still be color’s slave? Or will Victory change Your antiquated views?” In these lines, Hughes asks if the sacrifice and dedication would make him more than his race, and make him an equal and respectable human in the eyes of the white people at the time. When they made the same sacrifices as white people, one would hope that in the end they would be considered equal. Yet this was not usually the case. It saddens me that so many black Americans risked their lives for a country that did nothing treat them as equal.

Another poem by hughes, Let America be America Again, Hughes brings up the American Dream. He bursts the bubble of the American Dream, calling into question everything it promised to him, the freedom and equality he still does not have. This connects to the poem we heard in the podcast, a dream deferred, which was a sad reality for most black Americans at the time. They were not “included” in the American dream simply because of the color of their skin.

The reading this week was extremely powerful, Langston Hughes’s words telling to the harsh realities of being a black American during this time period. It made me wonder if Langston was alive today, how he would write about the issues our country is currently facing>

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10/19 blog post

I never knew that when Roosevelt went into the war it was for any reason other than human rights, the narrative that is told throughout grade school and high school. In some way, I guess this makes sense because, at the same time as we were fighting in the war, the US had Japanese internment camps, which were committing acts that violate human rights. This can also be seen in the fact that the US only entered the war after the bombing of Pearl Harbor when they felt threatened. The US The United States classifies this as a “mistake” but considering how we condemn Hitler’s concentration camps, the term “mistake” seems a little light to me.

Another thing that struck me was how Zinn talked about the bombings in Japan. Previous to this I had no idea that the suggestion of warning the civilians was made and ignored and also that the United States had intel that Japan was considering Peace allegations. The whole narrative I was told was that Japan would not surrender which is why the US was forced to drop two bombs and end the war. The US used the bombings to assert its military dominance and power and came out of the war as one of the most powerful countries in the war with the Soviet Union.

The hidden motives of the war were shocking to me. It made me question if the United States would have gotten involved in the war if Pearl Harbor had not happened? Would we have let the genocide continue because entering did nothing for us?

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10/12 blog post

In grade school, I was always told that the reason we took history class was so that we could learn the patterns, and acknowledge our mistakes so that we don’t repeat them. I know for a fact that we studied Spanish influenza, but apparently,  the federal government did not study it, as we are making all the same mistakes that the federal government did in 1918.

Spanish influenza spread very similarly to COVID19, and the way the United States handled them is disturbingly similar. In both cases the president, Woodrow Wilson, and Donald Trump did not validate the severity of the disease when it started, even after seeing the tolls, it took on other countries. The medical professionals advised wearing masks, but in 1918 and 2020, people still refuse to wear their masks, which prolongs the pandemics and allows more casualties. In the video, Trevor Noah says that wearing masks is what eventually got the pandemic to end yet knowing that people still wouldn’t wear masks. Will we will able to learn from our mistakes, or continue this pattern? If we can let mistakes with pandemics be repeated, what’s to stop the same thing from happening with wars or other dangerous things?

Another scary thing I learned is the effects that misinformation during a pandemic can have. Beyond believing the misinformation that the presidents spoke, that snake oil and injecting yourself with disinfectants will kill the disease, nationalities were targeted. After the great war, when Spanish influenza broke out, people blamed the Germans. When COVID breaking out, people are looking towards the Chinese, as China is where the outbreak started. Although something may have originated in a place, it is dangerous to blame a country or a people, because this is how implicit prejudice gets ingrained into society. In today’s society is it possible to acknowledge the history, and where the disease originated, without creating divisions in society?

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Alex OLoughlin Blog Post 10/5

The readings and podcasts focused on immigration, something very relevant in today’s society. As Dr. Bezio spoke of the unsubstantiated fears and biases that surround immigration, Gloria Anzaldúa and Jacob Riis’s works provided testimony and example. America still holds on to the idea of being a melting pot, but the actions we have taken against immigration says otherwise. America has made the process of immigration very difficult and placed restrictions on who is even eligible to apply. We claim that we are open to everyone, but then prevent an easily accessible way to immigrate.

Immigration comes with negative stereotypes. People associated certain races with bad characteristics that gave them an excuse to fear and discriminate when in reality, this fear was completely unfounded and wrong. In the same way Americans use the job excuse as a reason to restrict immigration. As the podcast mentioned, the opposite is true.

A focal point of immigration is tied to “The American Dream”. Oxford languages defines “The American Dream”  as, “the ideal by which equality of opportunity is available to any American, allowing the highest aspirations and goals to be achieved.” It is supposed to be obtainable to all that come to America, a reality that does not seem true. Gloria Anzaldúa describes the identity crisis that burdens her life. Jacob Riis illustrates the harsh conditions that immigrants faced, specifically in New York City, which disadvantaged them and kept them in a system where it was hard to break free. They didn’t have equal opportunities to achieve all there dreams. They had to deal with poverty and conditions that kept them struggling to stay afloat. This makes me wonder if the American dream is something that is actually obtainable to all or restricted. America has restricted immigration and made it very difficult. Once it is achieved, there are still internal biases that threaten people’s cultural identity and ability to succeed. People should not feel targeted by their language or their heritage or their cultural identity? So I am wondering, is the American dream just that, a dream?

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9/28 Blog Post Alex

Going to a boarding school, which brought in students from all over the country, conversations about the civil war were always very interesting and informative. While I, a student from the north was taught about the war that freed the slaves from southern cruelty, my friends from the south were taught about a war for the state’s rights and resisting an overcontrolling federal government. Thus, in history class, we examined the surface claims of both the north and the south but also the multi-layered reasons for the civil war. The different views of different parts of the country still exist and are part of the reason there was such a debate with the removal of confederate statues.

While the north did generally want to end slavery, part of the reason was the economic prosperity that the cotton industry and slavery gave the south over the north, whose lands permitted industry. They thought too much southern power would mean their oppression. The north wanted to preserve the union as well.  The south also had a stake in the game and felt particularly threatened as the balance of free and slave states shifted giving the North more federal power. Without slavery, the Southern economy would take a big hit, and they feared the northern power that would ensue as a result.

However, I found it very interesting to dive more specifically into Abraham Lincoln, who is usually considered a hero for the emancipation proclamation. Yet, looking at his changing statements regarding slavery it brings a new element of politics that has to be considered. Do you think that it matters what other intentions went into the emancipation proclamation because, at the end of the day, it went into effect and ended slavery? Is the end result all that matters when examining Lincoln, or is that just glorifying a history that needs to be looked at with critique?

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Blog Post 9/21

I really enjoyed these readings because it brought in women, who are historically the “other” sections in history books. I think that this is due to women being confined to the “domestic sphere” and their accomplishments were accredited to their husbands or unrecognized. Women were expected to be in charge of the household and raising and bearing children, and really did not the chance to expand into other work.

Anne Bradstreet and Phillis Wheatley did not go to school, but were educated by their father, and their slave master respectively. They are considered two brilliant poets whose words gave insight into their lives and beliefs. Yet, they were not originally published in the colonies, and both poets works were published in England.

Anne Bradstreet’s poems ranged from talking about the love of her husband, to the inevibility of death and the power of female leaders. Phillis Wheately fought racism through her poems and was considered an example of the intelligence of black people, used to further the abolition movement. Both women were religions and thier work referenced salvation, a common and important theme at the time.

Yet although these women are being talked about. They are commonly forgotten, Zinn says “invisable” in history. Women contributed more to society than what was expected of them, yet have no received recognition. It is 2020, and this is still a problem. Why are women considered extras in history books? Can this be changed? Inequality trends such as wage gap are still present. When women were forced into working in the industry with textiles they were paid almost nothing for their work. Today their is still a wage gap. While we have made progress, there is still a lot of work to be done. These themes are still extremely relevant.

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Alex Oloughlin

Once again, Zinn highlights the side of history that is not commonly acknowledged. He again reconstructs my opinion of the people that lead this country and the comparison between who i thought they were verse the actuality of who they were. The American revolution is a topic that students learn about from a very young age. It tells the tale of the founding fathers who were intelligent men that organized a revolution to fight Englands oppression and free the United States. Yet in actuality, the founding fathers were elitist white men who said “every man is created equal” but had a very narrow definition of “all men”.

The revolution seems something like something comparable to the situation with indentured servitude. When it was advertised, the people that were impacted by it were deceived into thinking it would be something very different than what it actually turned out to be. The middle and lower classes, who were the ones who actually did the fighting, were tricked into a fight that was more beneficial for the upper class. The upper class claimed to be fight for everyone, but they were fighting to keep their own power and position in society, and get rid of England who they were under.

The United States continually had conflicting actions and words. They had the bill of rights, but then pact the Sedition act. The government of the people was a government that would quell rebellion and disagreement by utilizing its power and manipulating the people of different classes, races and backgrounds.

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Alex Oloughlin 9/7

Once again, I feel like my view point on not only history, but things in my everyday life is being reshaped. My outlook on the relationship between culture and food is new. In all three readings, Twiddy offers different stories and outlooks about how food influenced his relationship with his own history. How cooking came with singing and tradition and stories.

In conjunction with the podcast, the readings illuminated the different roles food can play in someones life. It can be a part of the the heavy prejudices and stereotypes that can come with unique cultures. Yet it can also be a way to connect with heritage and the past. Signature dishes can be more than just a yummy treat, they are a way of connecting with the people that came before.

What concerned me was how possible it seems that this important part of culture can slip away. Whether money and class prevents cultural dining, or just the popularity and ease of fast food, default American food seems to be the go to. Before reading this article I may have had a different opinion, but now I believe that it is imperative that the history of food remain intact.

The question it brings me to is how do we continue to celebrate the unique heritages and cultures through food? In a country where the default audience is based for white folks, there needs to be a way to make ethnic food as accessible and affordable as every other food. America has already stripped away and rewritten so much history, we need give people the ability to preserve their own.

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Alexandra O. Blog Post 8/30

In A Peoples History of the United States, Howard Zinn begins reshaping readers view on history from his first chapter: Columbus, the Indians, and Human Progress. The common story of Christopher Columbus is one of heroism where he is celebrated for the so called “discovery” of America. As Dr. Bezio tells us in her podcast, the history we learn is told by the victors, and this rings true. Yet Zinn tells us the other side of the story. The true tragedies that Christopher Columbus caused. The pain and destruction that this “hero” caused. He brought mass genocide and enslaved Indians who welcomed him with gifts and food.

Zinn mentions Bartolome de La Casas, a priest who was originally with the Spaniards, but eventually wrote and released the truth behind the Spanish conquests. Knowing this drove home the some points from Wednesdays readings. How history was selectively recorded and glorified a leader because of his accidental success. But isn’t it possible to acknowledge his success finding America while condemning and bringing awareness to the true cruelty of his ways? We tend to gloss over the flaws of our leaders because of the important symbolism of leaders in America. But this needs to stop. Without Batrolome de La Casas, would we know the truth of the horrors that occurred, or would the genocide of the Arawaks be lost and forgotten history??

One reason we look at history to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past, and we learn from them. But this story, the true story of Columbus is not commonly known, and so it does not appear to be learned from. In fact, a pattern of the same tragedies developed; Cortes, Pizzaro, Jamestown and much more. It created a dangerous pattern in America. One of inequality and glossing over inequality and tragedies because of the reward reaped from the cruel actions. Its something still with us today. I am curious to know more hidden truths of American history that Zinn will continue to tell in his books, something I think that should be widely spread through the American education system.

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