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Author: Christopher Wilson

Christopher Wilson 11/30 Blog Post

The film Dear White People did a fair job addressing several social conflicts students- both white and non-white- face at elite institutions. In fact, Winchester University is very similar to Richmond in that their college house system relates to the white Greek culture at Richmond. Secondly, the amount of underrepresented populations is only a fraction of the student body population. Lastly, the administration at Winchester University does its best to keep a perfect image of their university so that their donor base expands rather than shrinks. While I may not have named all the ways Winchester University resembles Richmond, Dear White People criticizes what elite institutions pride themselves on. For instance, Richmond prides itself on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), yet if you look at the student of color percentage on campus, it is still deficient. Plus, many students of color have reported not feeling as though they belong to the larger campus community, which affects their retention and persistence rates.

 

Beyond this, Dear White People also sheds light on something that does not get talked about frequently: the diversity of Black people. There has been this historical myth that all Black people are the same and that when groups of black people congregate, they must be engaging in some form of advocacy that will result in inequality for white people. This mythos probably derived from colonial Americans’ origins of enslaving Africans, perpetuated by racism and discrimination. Furthermore, from my perspective as a Black person, what this results in is that it causes division in the Black community as we are then coerced to “fit” into some identity that contradicts white people’s assumption of us. In response, I wonder how we can dismantle myths such as this so that products of white supremacy are discontinued instead of infused with more elements that work to oppress and suppress underrepresented populations in America.

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Christopher Wilson Blog Post 11/16

The Ezra Klein podcast on America’s political polarization gave me more insight into politics, especially after the recent presidential election. Specifically, I was enlightened by Klein’s claim that as people become more politically engaged, they vote less on self-interest and more on identity expression. In other words, as more people become informed voters, they cast votes for candidates whose campaign deliverables resonate with their- the voter- identity and values rather than their selfish interests. In applying this knowledge to the 2020 Electoral College map, I am highly disturbed at the scale of voters who identified with the Trump administration’s policies and core values. While I respect their beliefs, I wonder if Klein’s speculation- that for a just democracy to rule, older white men in positions of power and authority will need to be replaced with political leaders of color- will ever happen. What cost will those of us who are not white and privileged pay if it does happen?

On another note, Zinn’s chapter on “The Unreported Resistance” captured various civil disobedience acts that are not covered in most K-12 educational institutions, especially if those institutions are public with the state dictating what the curriculum should be. For instance, throughout the 1980s, Americans aggressively protested the Reagan administration’s focus on producing nuclear weapons. Americans did not want a nuclear war to be the penultimate product of the Cold War. Even though I found these acts of resistance inspiring, I am still curious about how corrupt institutions, such as the federal government, were not overthrown by the public majority. I recall at the beginning of our course, Dr. Bezio mentioned that it only takes 12% of a population to overthrow a system. Hence, I wonder if the number of people involved in these resistance acts was not large enough to execute change on a macro-level. Perhaps, this is when the role of media, and now, social media, plays an integral role in either motivating or discouraging people from acting against an institution or institutions.

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Christopher Wilson’s Blog Post 11/06

For the most part, the information provided by “Four Decades and Counting: The Continued Failure of the War on Drugs” was not a surprise to me, which is not a good thing. When new pieces of striking information cease to surprise us, that is an indicator that the world we live in desperately needs a change. Moreover, I appreciate how this article analyzed prohibition from an economist’s perspective, particularly the section that contrasts what proponents of prohibition think about drug prohibition policies to what happens when those policies are implemented. In short, the conclusion from this section of the article is that legalizing the market for drugs will eliminate monopolies, drug cartels, and the violence most of these entities have a reputation for as less-violent and more eager drug suppliers can legally compete in the market.

After reading “Four Decades and Counting: The Continued Failure of the War on Drugs,” something of interest to me is the relationship between public officials in power and individuals involved in the drug market. I acknowledge that people who are negatively affected by whatever drug they consume cannot seek legal recourse in places where drugs are illegal and must mete out justice in their own hands. Most of these people to fall into this trap, I imagine, are low-income persons of color who do not have the wealth and privilege to get even. In response, I am sure that some public officials recreationally use drugs- even when they may be illegal- and their likelihood of either becoming addicted or overdosing is quite high if we consider the stress they endure at their job daily. What recourse would public officials’ families take if they have had a poor experience with a particular type of drug? Of course, they cannot seek legal recourse, nor can they necessarily take justice into their own hands by committing some act of violence against the individual or group in the drug market without risking their family members’ safety. Do they, too, end up in the same boat as low-income persons of color who do not have wealth and privilege to get even? If so, what does this reveal to us about the nature of the drug market?

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Christopher Wilson’s Blog Post 11/02

Overall, Platoon did a great job of exemplifying the struggles American soldiers faced while in the Vietnam War. For one, no matter how much training the soldiers had before being deployed, Vietnam’s social and physical environment paired with their guerilla warfare tactics made this war much more difficult to win. In the opening scenes, the American soldiers had to bear the humid hot climate of Vietnam and any wildlife that lived in the jungles- snakes, spiders, mosquitos, and red ants. Secondly, there were internal obstacles that undermined America’s military strength in that most of the infantry unit in Platoon was segregated by race, military rank, and popularity. Most soldiers who were drafted into the Vietnam War came from rural, uneducated, low-income families; thus, providing evidence to support the claim of how America wanted to resolve anti-Vietnam protests and classism inequalities. Nevertheless, the leaders and their followers of the infantry in Platoon had different views on how to win the war in Vietnam, which we see when the infantry unit raids the first Vietnamese village. Some soldiers were more prone to inflict violence on innocent civilians to gain information on what the Viet Cong were doing than other soldiers. This made me contemplate how war can mold an average citizen into becoming a “trained killer” as one of the soldiers in Platoon said. What benefit does this process, then, have on our society?

Towards the end of the movie- and of the Vietnam War in general- American soldiers’ morale dramatically decreased as they knew that Vietnam was going to win the war. In my opinion, the perspectives of the men and women fighting on the ground should be superior to those officials who are ignorant of what’s happening across the ocean as they are sitting comfortably in a secured facility in D.C. To see the amount of terror that gripped every soldier and how some of the soldiers died was heart-wrenching, and I wish that America would treat its Veterans and their families so much better after enduring so much trauma. In essence, the U.S.’s involvement in the Vietnam War should have ended far earlier than the late-1960s to the early-1970s. Moreover, I feel that our involvement in the wars in the Middle East should end too because the legacies of war breed cycles of mental illness in soldiers, poverty in conflict-afflicted communities, and, ultimately, violence.

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Christopher Wilson’s Blog Post 10/26

One of Langston Hughes’ poems that I connected with is “Will V-Day Be Me-Day Too?” Hughes begins this poem by specifically addressing his fellow Americans- white Americans on the homefront and fighting in WWII. By doing this, Hughes does not neglect to mention that black Americans are also on the homefront and fighting in WWII as it underscores one of the primary messages of this poem. In response, I felt that Hughes asserts that African Americans should not be treated differently when they have made the same commitments to upholding American democracy domestically and internationally as their white counterparts. Two, the U.S. cannot justly say that they’ve succeeded in freeing individuals from institutional injustice and inequality, such as German Jews, yet do nothing to eliminate Jim Crow laws that affect the African American community. Lastly, I feel that Hughes questions what V-Day- Victory Day- means to African Americans who are still in bondage in the “land of the free.” In other words, he is urging white America to critically re-examine the pride they gained from their victory in WWII because the American homefront still has pervasive social inequalities and injustices affecting black America.  

On that note, I am not surprised by Langston Hughes’ influence in America during the 20th century. I am surprised to hear that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. did not credit Hughes in his “I Have a Dream” speech. I wonder why this silence continued in history, even in the black community. This reminds me of when they call you a terrorist: a black lives matter memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and asha bandele. I remember that in this memoir, Patrisse- one of the founding members of the Black Lives Matter Movement- says that the federal government classified her and other members of her family and friends as terrorists for their anti-racist activism. On that note, I would say that invisible leadership can also evolve out of the federal government’s reaction and response to the voices of people who are not white and wealthy.

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Christopher Wilson’s Blog Post 10/19

The Swanson article and Zinn’s (1980) chapter on “A People’s War?” did an excellent job of presenting another narrative about WWII. It amazes me how the United States continues to instill certain narratives and ideologies into its youth even after WWII ended 75 years ago, just so that the youth will not collectively overthrow the government and form a more just union and society. What specifically astonished me about WWII was this particular paragraph from Zinn’s chapter. Zinn writes, “Roosevelt was as much concerned to end the oppression of Jews as Lincoln was to end slavery during the Civil War; their priority in policy (whatever their personal compassion for victims of persecution) was not minority rights, but national power” (410). A recurring sentiment Zinn highlights throughout this chapter is how the United States’ involvement in WWII was not for humanitarian efforts. Instead, the U.S. was eager to feed its exceptionalism ideology by expanding its values of capitalism and democracy across Asia and Europe while maintaining those same systems and structures domestically. In response, I believe this is why Zinn questions Americans’ validity calling WWII “a people’s war” when so many wrongs against people- both domestically and internationally- were occurring at the hands of the United States government.

 

Moreover, I discovered another danger to the exceptionalism ideology. Suppose that you become the best at everything you wanted to be superior in after much sacrifice and effort. Is it equally possible that you would not be satisfied with your status in the world, and so you would continue to exploit others to feed this twisted hunger of yours? And, by twisted hunger, I mean the feeling of being chosen by God to lead everyone else through the darkness that surrounds our world since everyone is less than compared to you. Zinn presents a similar message as he quotes revolutionary pacifist A.J. Muste, “‘The problem after a war is with the victor. He thinks he has just proved that war and violence pay. Who will now teach him a lesson?’” (424). While there may be anticipation surrounding WWIII, I do know one thing: killing human beings is wrong no matter which side of the war you are on, and there’s not anything “good” nor “just” about that.

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Christopher Wilson’s Blog Post 10/12

This is the second time I have had to complete a reading or watch a video regarding the similarities of the COVID-19 pandemic with the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918. When the COVID-19 pandemic is over, the generations who survived the coronavirus will all agree that no matter where you were in the world, COVID-19 symbols were everywhere- from seeing people sport trendy face masks to signing compact agreements that legally bound you to abide by social distancing protocols to even hearing the word “corona” come up in every conversation you overhear. COVID-19 has managed to pervade all of our lives in an instant. As winter approaches, I am a bit anxious about our future. Both the Spanish flu article and the YouTube video pointed out that there was a second outbreak of the Spanish flu in America because some cities and states went back to “normal” too soon. While many cities and states have limited their business operations, I still wonder if our next COVID-19 outbreak will be because of other safety precautions besides people wearing their masks. For instance, if many people do not get their flu shot this season, could this possibly increase the entire population’s risk of being affected by COVID-19?

Aside from this, Trevor Noah and Dr. Bezio’s podcast highlighted the Lesson of 1918, which has evidence to prove how bringing crowds of people back too soon will increase the chances of the virus resurfacing again. Trevor Noah goes on to say that the mismanagement of the U.S. federal government is what has already caused the COVID-19 pandemic to claim the lives of thousands of more people that could have been avoided if proper leadership was in place. This fact should not be surprising because history shows us that the same cause-effect relationship was present during the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918. Also, Trevor Noah points out that the general distrust of leadership has caused many Americans to not follow social distancing guidelines seriously. If all of this is true, how can we, as a collective society, collaborate across differences and distance to achieve the same common goal: find a cure for the COVID-19 virus so that we can start rebuilding what was once “normal” in our daily lives?

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Christopher Wilson’s Blog Post 10/03

After listening to Dr. Bezio’s podcast regarding the relationship the U.S. has with immigrants, I feel frustrated that I do not know how diversity and the representation thereof will look like in the future. Anzaldua’s excerpts from Borderlands points out how aggressive assimilation into the white, English-speaking culture of the U.S. can lead to the erasure of ethnic tongues and people, which many African Americans have already experienced as a result of the Atlantic Slave Trade. Also, Anzaldua stresses that the key to fostering a healthy “melting pot” is for both the dominant culture and the other minority cultures to work towards cross-cultural communication and collaboration. In cross-cultural communication and collaboration, both groups of people have to learn a language that is different from the one they commonly speak at home. For instance, a person who speaks English 100% of the time should actively listen and learn how to understand Spanish and vice versa. Additionally, I do acknowledge that there are shortcomings in achieving cross-cultural communication and collaboration. The primary hurdle being that how Southern black people speak English is going to be radically different from how Western black people speak English. In this sense, is it realistic for our society to educate the entire human population in many languages that differ from their native tongue?

On another note, I am happy to hear the truth behind the value immigrants bring to our society. One, immigrants who become entrepreneurs in the U.S. create jobs and contribute to the American economy. Two, immigrants take jobs that most of us born in America feel too privileged to even consider. If we look at the work that janitors to factory workers have to do daily at low wage rates, especially amid COVID-19, they actually play a vital role in making sure that our workspaces are correctly cleaned and that our manufactured items are crafted with care. In response, there are actions that our society can take to address the images that the federal government and the media use to portray immigrants. The first step: all of us need to stop assuming that the actions or responses of one individual wholly translates to the experiences of all. Instead, we need to create a system of cultural and ethnic close-reading so that we can understand and better serve our immigrants who come to this country in hopes of achieving the idyllic American Dream.

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Christopher Wilson’s Post 9/26

This week’s listening and reading activities helped me to better comprehend how complex the institution of slavery was when analyzing it through the contexts of the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation. When we look at slavery as the underlying cause of the Civil War, Dr. Bezio points out that we also see slavery being directly tied to issues of economic oppression and states’ rights. Northern economies in the 19th century were booming because of industrialization and the North’s increased usage of textile mills and machine shops; whereas, Southern economies were prospering because of the slave plantation system, which grew after Eli Whitney’s cotton gin was made. As a result, both the North and the South were threatened by each other’s successful economy because, at this time, there was a relatively equal balance of power due to there being the same number of northern states as southern states. Over time, as white Americans began their quest to expand westward, this balance of power was upset because newer states would decide which economy they would join. This, of course, came with conditions. Joining the Northern economy meant taking a stance against the institution of slavery, which was the backbone of the Southern economy. Contrarily, joining the Southern economy meant advocating for the institution of slavery and against Northerners’ ideals of taking away states’ individual rights to slavery. Learning this piece of history was not comforting nor was learning that white anti-slavery individuals in the North only opposed slavery because the institution of slavery threatened the North’s economy and their livelihood. While I have been taught to believe that white anti-slavery individuals in the North opposed slavery because they felt that it was unethical, I know the brutal truth and I say that a successful rebellion needs to take place so that people of African descent can stop being viewed and treated as commodities by white Americans in power.

Before reading Zinn’s (1980) chapter on “Slavery without Submission, Emancipation without Freedom,” I knew that Abraham Lincoln intention’s with the Emancipation Proclamation was not to set slaves free- the emancipation of slaves was rather an indirect result of a much larger military tactic at play. On page 191, Zinn (1980) explores the Emancipation Proclamation’s dual function that it had in September 1862 versus the function it played in January 1863. When President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in September 1862, he did so with the terms that Confederate states would have four months to stop rebelling against the Union or else the Union would set slaves in those Confederate states free. However, if during this time any Confederate states submitted to the authority of the Union, then the Union would not disrupt that Confederate state’s institution of slavery. In January 1863, though, President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation with the declaration that all slaves in Confederate states, that had not yet submitted to the authority of the Union, would be free. The nuance Zinn (1980) applies to the Union’s actual stance on the institution of slavery reinforces what mostly all white Americans cared about, which was a stable and growing economy. Lincoln, and members of the Union, did not want southern states to secede because it would result in a disruption in the economic relationship that the North had with the South- for instance, commerce, manufacturing, and agriculture. The Union knew that by taking away the institution of slavery from the South, they would be angering slaveowners, who may not continue the economic relationships they had developed for decades. Thus, the language regarding the freedom of enslaved people in the Emancipation Proclamation was carefully articulated so that both the North and the South could gain something out of the Civil War.

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Christopher Wilson’s Blog Post 9/19

In response to the material that focuses on gender inequality throughout history, I can see why Gender Essentialism was popular in the past and how this ideology is being perpetuated in today’s society. Zinn (1980) talks a lot about how women were objectified by their husbands because of their physical characteristics that these men sought to exploit for personal gain. For instance, when men looked at women, they saw them as their property, as servants, sex partners, companions, and as the mother of their children. This system of oppression was reinforced by men who imposed strict social standards and who passed laws to ensure that women would be kept in their place at all times. It is not surprising, then, that these same men used religion to justify their unjust system of inequality against women.

As Dr. Bezio mentioned in her podcast, the intersections of class and gender also influenced the level of oppression women faced because the struggles that wealthy, white women faced were radically different from the struggles that poor, white women faced. For example, wealthy, white women had more freedom, opportunity, and time to deviate from traditional gender norms to explore their curiosities. On the other hand, poor, white women did not have the freedom,  opportunity, nor as much time as wealthy, white women because they had to learn how to not only manage their household but how to also perform well on their low-wage job, where they worked long hours and under harsh conditions. This comparison does not begin to consider the struggles that black women also faced during the 17th century as slaves. In the early 19th century, though, Zinn (1980) points out that the feminist movement grew in power as women- primarily, those in the middle-class- learned how to properly advocate for themselves and the causes they were passionate about. Women accomplished this goal by educating themselves on how to read and write better since society prohibited women from pursuing higher education.

On that note, the poems Anne Bradstreet and Phillis Wheatley wrote fascinated me. A common theme that I notice in Anne’s work is the zeal she has in wanting to end women’s submission to men because her identity as a devout Puritan conflicted with her gender identity as a woman. Although her religion urged her to only focus on her devotion to God, Anne was ready to start the conversation about things that most women weren’t supposed to discuss in colonial America, such as love and a commitment to other people than just solely God. Likewise, I was really interested in the story of Phillis Wheatley and the impact she had on the world. Her life as an African slave was uncommon and is not heard about in history when we examine the lives of African slaves from the 17th to the 19th century. What’s more than this is that she had her work published across Europe and North America while still being an African slave, in which her poem “On Being Brought from Africa to America” uses biblical allusions to appeal to the religious colonists in America to take action in abolishing slavery.

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Christopher Wilson’s Blog Post 9/13

I found this chapter to be extremely insightful to my understanding of how to interpret important historical events and documents, such as the Revolutionary War and the U.S. Constitution, in response to who in history was controlling the narrative of these events. With the Revolutionary War, Zinn (1980) analyzed what this war meant to both Native Americans and African slaves. For Native Americans, the Revolutionary War augmented their feelings of isolation and fear for their future livelihood as they no longer had the aid of France and England to protect them from the oppression and violence colonial Americans placed on them. Colonial Americans were eager to acquire more land in the west as the populations in the American colonies in the east were growing; however, this was not good for Native Americans because they were constantly being forced off of their land to relocate to some other uninhabited area. Hence, many land conflicts arose between colonial Americans and the Native Americans, yet the Native Americans held their ground and defeated the groups of American colonists who wanted to take their land. On the other hand, the Revolutionary War for African slaves allowed them to achieve freedom as thousands of African slaves took advantage of the mayhem to escape their masters so that they could live relatively free lives in other parts of the world. Also, free black people, who mainly lived in the North, began to assert themselves in a white supremacist culture as they advocated for voting rights, for financial resources to educate their children, for anti-discrimination laws, and for many other things that would reduce the inequalities the free black population in America no longer wanted to suffer from.

Similarly, Zinn (1980) points out that the U.S. Constitution is just another document that the colonial ruling class in America used to serve three primary purposes. One, the wealthy deliberated crafted the rhetoric of the Constitution to protect their economic interests- owning property, land, and slaves- while maintaining their system of privilege. As we have already learned in class, African slaves, indigenous people, women, indentured servants, and white men who did not own property were not extended these same protections and liberties. Two, the rich wanted to create a representative government that would maintain peace in society while preventing uprisings- for instance, farmers and military veterans rebelling against members of Congress. I should add that the rich were obsessed with controlling the government and controlling the laws by which the government and the people in America had to abide by. Three, the upper-class needed to earn the support of middle-class white America so that middle-class white Americans could support them instead of allying with the poor to overthrow the rich in power. By deceiving middle-class white Americans to believe that the U.S. Constitution would prioritize democracy, equality, and balance in society and that they- the rich- would grant them some rights and privileges in return for their support, middle-class white Americans took a bite of the upper-class’ act of good faith too soon. The middle-class soon regretted their decision when they saw how the upper-class continued to perpetuate systems of inequality against them.

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Christopher Wilson’s Blog Post 9/6

Michael Twitty’s (2017) The Cooking Gene conjured up a series of memories from my upbringing in a Southern, black home. For me, my identity is rooted in the foods my family cooked and in the responsibility my family has in teaching the younger generations our culinary secrets. Similar to Twitty (2017), the intersections of genetics and African American heritage dishes- also known as Soul Food- always leaves me yearning to learn more about my ancestry and heritage with every Christmas dinner my family and I prepare on Christmas Eve as tradition. Yet, with every year that passes, I become concerned when a member of my immediate family- including myself- forgets how to prepare certain dishes that were once taught to us by the now-deceased members of our family, our ancestors. I am concerned because with every consecutive dish forgotten means that subsequent generations will forget not only those special seasonings used to coat the catfish in or those mental notes on how much sugar to add to the cornbread mixture, but that they will also forget our deceased family members- our ancestors- and the narratives they carried with them. In part, I feel this is because of the rising pressure for members of society to spend more time working and building wealth for their families that they do not have the time nor energy to be culinary historians like Michael Twitty. So, they do what they can and what is convenient- spend money on various fast food franchises to feed their family’s appetite so much so that the food native to that family’s history and culture tastes out of place when it meets that person’s taste buds again. This only leads me to be more concerned about the survival rate of African American food withstanding the effects of time.

 

In response to Dr. Bezio’s fourth podcast and the readings from Twitty’s (2017) The Cooking Gene, I have a few pressing questions: How can we protect our cultural foods and the histories that come along with them, from the rise of globalization? While I firmly believe that intercultural communication and collaboration is something our society needs more of, how would the mixing and acceptance of different cultures affect the way we eat, cook, and even remember our foods that are aspects of our identity and ancestral history? Could this possibly fuel the erasure of foods and ancestral narratives for minority groups? I am in no authoritative position to give answers to these questions; however, I am simply curious to know what other people think about the future of the foods we continuously cook with our families over holidays, for celebrations, and during certain times of the year.

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Christopher W. Blog Post 8/30

Zinn (1980) opens up his book by describing a historic moment in American history that we all have been taught in our History classes since elementary school: when Christopher Columbus discovers North America. Although, Zinn (1980) introduces further details about Christopher Columbus’ discovery of North America that astonished many individuals, namely me, as most American history books do not characterize Columbus in the negative light Zinn does. He then goes on to insist that historians and members of society, in general, must stop being complicit in accepting immoral moments in history at face value for some other ideological interest that connects everyone, such as progress (Zinn, 1980). This is especially true if we ever want to escape this cycle of repeating what has already happened in the past. As many people would say, different level, same devil.

Moreover, Zinn (1980) writes, “We have learned to give them exactly the same proportion of attention that teachers and writers often give them in the most respectable of classrooms and textbooks. This learned sense of moral proportion…is accepted more easily than when it comes from politicians at press conferences. It is therefore more deadly” (p. 9). Here, Zinn (1980) suggests that every time we hear about a horrible event in history, we instantaneously dedicate a finite amount of attention and compassion towards the victims impacted by those tragic moments in history and continue on with our lives without giving anything a second thought. When we do this, we subconsciously lower ourselves to accepting the executioners in history viewpoint Zinn (1980) details throughout this chapter instead of allying ourselves with the victims’ point of view that can motivate us to address the infirmities of our past to create a better present that will inevitably influence our future (p. 10). A modern-day example of this subconscious process is the negative relationship black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) students have at predominantly white institutions (PWI), such as Richmond.

Even though countless BIPOC voice their frustrations and share their opinions on what needs to systematically change at their PWIs- for instance, taking more severe action against students, even if they are white, who discriminate, harass, and assault BIPOC- it utterly feels like their- our- voices and freedoms are being silenced, restricted, monitored and, in some cases, “handled”, just like the Arawaks of the Bahamas, just like the Aztecs of Mexico, just like the Incas of Peru, and just like the Powhatans and Pequots of Virginia and Massachusetts. So, I wonder if it is possible for our world to ever return to its idyllic form Zinn (1980) mentions when communities were not tainted with the egocentric values and ideals that guided Western civilizations in the 15th Century but were adorned with egalitarian principles and practices that brought the fantasy of a utopia to life.

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