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Author: Jeffrey Sprung

Jeffrey Sprung Blog Post for 11/30

The movie Dear White People revolves around Samantha White, a black female student at Winchester University, who produces the radio show “Dear White People.” Sam White’s radio show “Dear White People” gains a lot of attention on the campus of Winchester University, a distinguished, predominantly white university, as Sam discusses the racism and segregation between white and black students that takes place at Winchester University. I thought that satire within Dear White People allowed the movie to effectively address systemic racial issues, discrimination, and segregation that takes place on the campus of Winchester University, which represent many issues in society as a whole in today’s world. 

Although I think Dear White People did an excellent job at addressing the problematic racism and discrimination towards black students on college campuses across the country, I unfortunately do not think that Dear White People will help eliminate these race issues that exist on college campuses and society as a whole in today’s world. Dear White People acknowledged many of the stereotypes and racism that takes place on college campuses which will help to bring awareness to these issues, but I don’t think that solely acknowledging these stereotypes and ignorances of white people will allow society to solve these issues and move forward towards racial equality. However, I think that students in college should still be aware of this movie in order to halt these racist acts and stereotypes that can occur on college campuses and beyond. 

Lastly, if I had to criticize one aspect of the film I would criticize the title of the movie as I feel that the title of “Dear White People” falsely implies the fact that all white people perpetuate racism. I completely agree that many white people are racist, but I believe the title of “Dear White People” was too general.

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Jeffrey Sprung Blog Post for 11/6

     The chapter “The Unreported Resistance” within Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States detailed the numerous rebellions of the American people against our government throughout the late 1900s. I was surprised to learn about this “permanent adversarial culture” (601) that began in the United States in the late 1900s due to our government’s actions. For example, I was previously unaware of the “national movement against nuclear weapons,” (603) which was catalyzed by President Reagan’s huge military budget. Despite the largest political protest in the history of the United States that occurred in Central Park, NYC (among other protests) to halt the testing, production and development of nuclear weapons, the federal government still later got involved in the Gulf War during the George H. W. Bush presidency.

      The unrest among the people of the United States in the late 1900s that Zinn described in this chapter reminded me of the current protests that are currently taking place. Over the past few months, massive BLM and other protests have occurred. It is unfortunate people within the United States are still unhappy with our government, however I am hoping that these current  protests serve as a positive agent for changes within our government in the future.

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Jeffrey Sprung Blog Post for 11/9

The movie Just Mercy details the extremely emotional and inspirational real-life story of Walter McMillian’s exoneration from Alabama’s death row prison, Holman State Prison. Just Mercy stars the phenomenal actors Michael B. Jordan, who plays Bryan Stevenson, and Jamie Foxx, who plays Walter “Johnny D.” McMillian. Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx’s outstanding acting exposed the racist and corrupt criminal justice system in America and enhanced the movie’s powerful message of hope. After watching the movie, I gained a tremendous amount of respect for Bryan Stevenson, Walter McMillian’s lawyer and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative. Stevenson, a Harvard law school graduate, overcame many obstacles in order to ultimately free Walter McMillian, an African American man from Monroeville, Alabama who was wrongly sentenced to death for a murder he did not commit. 

In the beginning of Just Mercy, Michael B. Jordan meets with an Alabama District Attorney in hopes of gaining more information surrounding the case of Walter McMillian. Michael B. Jordan opens up the meeting by asserting to the Alabama District Attorney that he has very serious doubts about the reliability of Walter McMillian’s criminal record as he claims that McMillian’s conviction was based on false testimony. The Alabama District Attorney refutes Michael B. Jordan’s beliefs and claims that McMillian, “…Caused a lot of pain for folks around here, and if you go digging in those wounds, you are going to make a lot of people very unhappy.” Michael B. Jordan is unfazed and responds, “Well it isn’t my job to make people happy, it is to achieve justice for my client.” Bryan Stevenson’s relentless pursuit for the justice of Walter McMillian, which is depicted by Michael B. Jordan in this scene, ultimately leads to the miraculous release of Walter McMillian from death row at the conclusion of the movie. Bryan Stevenson should be recognized as a hero in the United States as he put himself at risk in order to combat the racist and corrupt criminal justice system in Alabama to exonerate Walter McMillian and so many other wrongfully convicted prisoners.

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Jeffrey Sprung Blog Post for 11/2

The Academy Award winning movie Platoon, which was directed by Oliver Stone (a Vietnam War veteran), provides an incredibly realistic portrayal of the brutal lifestyle, danger, and cruelty of the Vietnam War. After watching the movie, I gained a tremendous amount of respect for veterans of the Vietnam War as the movie depicted the tough conditions and danger the soldiers had to endure while fighting in Vietnam. 

In one of the opening scenes of Platoon, Chris Taylor, a former college student who enlisted in the Vietnam War, reveals the difficult lifestyle that soldiers had to deal with while serving in Vietnam. While digging a hole in a very hot jungle in Vietnam, Chris states that “this place feels like hell,” and that he “hates it already and it has only been a week.” Upon his arrival, Chris questions his ability to survive his entire year long service in Vietnam and admits that he thinks he “made a big mistake coming here.” Chris’ thoughts are representative of many soldiers in Vietnam as many soldiers were deployed without actually wanting to serve in the war. After witnessing the harsh lifestyles of soldiers in Vietnam in Platoon, I now can understand why so many soldiers returned from the war deeply traumatized by experiences. 

In another scene of the movie, King reveals to Chris the soldiers underlying motivations to keep fighting in the Vietnam War. Before King boards the helicopter to leave Vietnam to go back home, he explains to Chris that, “all you gotta do is make it out of here,” and then “every day of the rest of your life is gravy.” Based on King’s statement it is evident that all the soldiers in the Vietnam War were motivated to stay alive and endure the arduous conditions of Vietnam in hopes of one day making it back to their families in the United States and living in comfort again.

Overall, I was very impressed with Platoon and believe Oliver Stone did an outstanding job of realistically capturing the events that occurred in the Vietnam War.

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Jeffrey Sprung Blog Post for 9/26

The works of Langston Hughes, a 20th century African American poet and one of the prominent figures of the Harlem Renaissance era, remain very powerful and relevant to this day. Langston Hughes used his poems in order to promote African American culture and express his desire for racial justice and equality in America. Hughes’ uses simple language and structure within his poems in order to provide insight on the struggles of Black Americans in the United States during World War II and leading up to the Civil Rights Movement.

In the poem, “Will V-Day Be Me-Day Too?” Hughes questions whether Black Americans enlisted in the Army, Navy, and Air Corps during World War II would be included and recognized in the celebration of Victory Day, the day that would signify the conclusion of World War II. Hughes argues that Black Americans in World War II “wear a U.S. uniform…have “done the enemy much harm..” and “face death the same as [white men] do…”  so therefore should be celebrated during V-Day of World War II, which I completely agree with. Hughes includes the fact that Black Americans were worried that they would be mistreated upon their return to the United States as he mentions “Will you still let old Jim Crow / Hold me back?” and “ Will I still be ill-fated / because I’m black?” Hughes’ sentiments within these lines represent the feelings of Black men who were fighting in World War II. It is awful that Blacks were not treated equally during World War II as they fought and died for the freedom of our country.

In the poem “Let America Be America Again,” Hughes highlights the struggles of Blacks due the immense racial inequality in the United States. Hughes questions the fact that America is the “Land of the Free” as he states “Who said the free? Not me?” Hughes protests the oppression of Blacks in the United States and advocates for racial and social equality of Blacks in the United States. Hughes message within this poem still is relevant to this day due to the recent Black Lives Matter protests.

Langston Hughes poems were extremely impactful on society and contributed to the increase in racial equality and termination of racial segregation in the United States at the conclusion of the Civil Rights Movement.

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Jeffrey Sprung Blog Post for 10/19

The chapter “A People’s War” within Howard Zinn’s PHUS and the article “World War Two Was Not a Just War” by David Swanson both provided immense insight on the United States’ true motives and contributions during World War II. Both readings directly contradicted the information surrounding World War II that I previously learned in my history classes. First off, Zinn and Swanson both argue that Franklin D. Roosevelt provoked Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor and knew of Japan’s impending attack on Pearl Harbor before it occurred. For example, Zinn mentions that “Japan’s strike against the American naval base climaxed a long series of mutually antagonistic acts [between the United States and Japan]” and that FDR, “repeatedly deceived the American people during the period before Pearl Harbor” (Zinn, 411). I was very surprised to learn that the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was not actually the shocking, sudden attack that it is depicted as in many American history textbooks. I don’t necessarily  understand and agree with FDR’s supposed actions of instigating such an atrocious attack from the Japanese and not alerting the American people and troops prior to the Pearl Harbor attack. Secondly, both Zinn and Swanson oppose the United States decision to drop the second atomic bomb on Nagasaki after witnessing the horrific effects of the first atomic bomb, which they unleashed on Hiroshima. Zinn explains that the second atomic bomb largely targeted innocent civilians in Hiroshima, and “no one has ever been able to explain why it was dropped” (Zinn, 424). Zinn and Swanson’s viewpoints regarding atomic bombs which the United States dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki largely differ from previous narratives surrounding the atomic bombs that I learned in high school as I was taught that the atomic bombs were essential in order to conclude World War II. Lastly, both Zinn and Swanson argue that the United States engagement in World War II was harmful due to the damage that they inflicted throughout the world. I always perceived the United States efforts in World War II as heroic and never really considered the fact that “U.S escalated the targeting of civilians, extended the war, and inflicted more damage than might have occured, had the U.S done nothing, attempted diplomacy, or invested in nonviolence” (Swanson).

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Jeffrey Sprung Blog Post for 10/12

After reading the “Spanish Flu” by History.com article and watching the “COVID-19 vs. Spanish Flu – If You Don’t Know, Now You Know” video by Trevor Noah, I was shocked to learn of the tremendous similarities between COVID-19 and the Spanish Flu. Furthermore, I was even more surprised that I was never previously aware of these numerous similarities between COVID-19 and the Spanish Flu. Similarly to my peers, when COVID-19 escalated into a global pandemic and catalyzed the shutdown of the United States in March, I was in complete awe that the United States could ever shut down to the extent that it did. Yet, I was entirely oblivious to the fact that the United States experienced an extremely similar chain of events in 1918 due to the Spanish Flu. For example, The History.com article points out that in the United States “hospitals in some areas were so overloaded with the [Spanish] flu patients that schools, private homes and other buildings had to be converted into makeshift hospitals, some of which staffed by medical students.” Furthermore, Trevor Noah acknowledges the fact that during the Spanish Flu, “thousands protested mandatory masking measures.” I am very fascinated that history within the United States is practically repeating itself as approximately a century following the Spanish Flu, COVID-19 has caused people of the United States to act in a very similar manner and experience the same ramifications as the Spanish Flu. 

Furthermore, I am surprised that the media has not greatly emphasized the comparability of the Spanish Flu and the COVID-19 pandemics as many Americans could be ignoring social distancing and quarantine rules because they feel that the government has no concrete evidence for their decisions to mandate masks or order shutdowns of public places. However, in reality, the trends of the Spanish flu mirror the COVID-19 pandemic thus far in many ways.

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Jeffrey Sprung Blog Post for 10/5

The excerpts from Gloria Anzaldúa’s “Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza,” highlights the identity struggle that minorities in the United States face when attempting to assimilate to United States culture. Gloria Anzaldúa, provides a firsthand, personal account of the hardships she experiences due to her Chicana identity, which was very difficult to learn about. In the excerpt “Linguistic Terrorism,” Anzaldúa stresses the importance of her language in the makeup of her identity as she states that  “I am my language” and claims that “if you want to really hurt me, talk badly about my language.” Since I have never lived in a different country before, I never fully realized the immense conflict that people face due to language barriers and differences. I am very fortunate that I am able to speak and understand English, the primary language in the United States and the rest of the world, as it would be an immense challenge and a huge discomfort to not be able to communicate easily with others. In the second and third excerpts, Anzaldúa expands on the struggles she endures as a Chicana women in the United States as she explains that “Chicanos and other people of color suffer economically for not acculturating” and that “In the Borderlands, you are at home, a stranger…” It is very unfortunate that Anzaldúa and the Chicano people have to deal with these issues due to their cultural differences in comparison to culture in the United States. The people of the United States need to be aware of the hardships that minority groups face in order to become a more inclusive and prosperous culture.

The chapters within Jacob Riis’ “How The Other Half Lives” further illustrated the unfair issues immigrants face when moving to the United States. Riis explains that Italian and Chinese immigrants engage in activities, such as gambling and doing drugs, in order to mitigate the stress of their problems when immigrating to the United States. It is very sad that Italian and Chinese immigrants have to turn to gambling and drugs in order to handle the stress that they experience as their actions only worsen their identity struggles as people living in the United States perceive them as problematic.

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Jeffrey Sprung Blog Post 9/28

Zinn’s chapter, Slavery Without Submission, Emancipation Without Freedom and the video The American Civil War Video Part 1, provided me with a much broader understanding of the American Civil War. Both the chapter and the video presented a more well-rounded, truthful depiction of the Civil War era, which reminded me that history within the United States is often taught with many biases and false narratives. The Civil War is one of my favorite periods within the history of the United States as I am fascinated by the leadership of Abraham Lincoln. It was very interesting to learn about Lincoln’s initial wariness in outright opposing slavery at the beginning of The Civil War to his ultimate decision to issue the Emancipation Proclamation towards the end of the Civil War. Originally, Lincoln was cautious about outright opposing slavery as he was aware of the crucial role that slaves played in the operation of South’s plantation-based economy. Lincoln tried to appease the South by making it clear that his goal was to preserve the Union and not free the South’s slaves. However, as the Civil War progressed, Lincoln’s intentions of the Civil War shifted to abolish slavery and completely form a new Union. 

Before reading Zinn’s chapter and watching OverSimplified’s video, I was entirely unaware of many events that occurred during the Civil War. For example, I had no idea of the large role that slaves played in the Union army after Lincoln announced the Emancipation Proclamation. I was surprised to learn that two hundred thousand blacks were enlisted in either the Union army or navy and that 38,000 blacks were killed. Zinn mentions that, “Without [slaves] help, the North could not have won the war as soon as [they] did, and perhaps could not have won it at all” (194). Furthermore, I was frustrated to learn of the wage gap and mistreatment of blacks within the Union army. Even though black soldiers performed the most grueling work during the war, such as digging trenches and loading ammunition, they only received $10 a month, while white soldiers received $13 a month.

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Jeffrey Sprung Blog Post 9/21

The chapter “The Intimately Oppressed” details the immense oppression women faced throughout the history of the United States and exposes the lack of emphasis on the lives and legacies of women in our country’s history books. Zinn’s description of the unjust treatment of women throughout our history was very eye-opening and horrific to learn about. 

Ever since women first arrived in the United States on the Mayflower, women have been faced with unequal treatment, which unfortunately still occurs to this day. Zinn reveals the unjust actions of male colonists towards women in Colonial America within the chapter. For example, Zinne explains that males acquired the, “absolute possession of [their] wives personal property” (107) and viewed their family “…as a patriarchal sovereignty in which [they were] both a king and priest” (108). I was disgusted to learn the way in which male colonists asserted their control over women. Unfortunately, male colonists’ behavior toward women set the precedent for the unequal treatment of women for many centuries to come. For example, in the 19th and century women were not given equal opportunity to get jobs in comparison to men and instead were typically responsible for household work and raising their families children. Zinn described this fact by claiming that women were “separate but equal” (114) as their household work was equally as important to their husbands job, but separate and different. Furthermore, women were not given the right to vote until 1919.

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Jeffrey Sprung Blog Post 9/14

In “A Kind of Revolution” Howard Zinn provides a more accurate analysis of the American Revolution, which includes the perspectives of slaves, Indians, white servants, and poor white people. Similarly to previous chapters within A People’s History of the United States, I was once again compelled to question and alter my past beliefs about historical events after reading this chapter. In lower, middle, and high school I learned of the American Revolution through the lens of rich, white powerful men, such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, and therefore never really considered the major role that minority groups played in the American Revolution. Zinn’s description of the wealth divide between the wealthy and poor oppression that the minority groups faced during the American Revolution was very eye opening to me.

Zinn explains the unfortunate truth that one of the motivations of the upper class to engage in the American Revolution was to gain more wealth and power in society. I was previously unaware of this and the wealth divide that existed within the Continental Army. For example, I was suprised that colonel’s within the army received $75 a month, meanwhile privates in the army received $6.66 a month. After learning about this and other facts, I completely agree with Zinn that the Revolution was, “distributed in such a way as to give a double opportunity to Revolutionary leaders: to enrich themselves and their friends…” (84). It is now much easier for me to understand why the United States still faces major wealth gap and class issues as classism was implemented in our countries roots hundreds of years ago by our Founding Fathers.

Furthermore, I agreed with Zinn’s statements regarding the Constitution.I think that it is awful that African Americans, indentured servants, women, and men without property were not reflected in the Constitution. As Zinn states, I once believed that “…the Constitution drawn up in 1787 [was] a work of genius put together by wise, humane men who created a legal framework for democracy and equality” (90). However, now, it is puzzling to me that our Founding Fathers only referenced white men in the Constitution and did not include minority groups, such as women and African Americans. 

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Jeffrey Sprung Blog Post for 9/7

In the opening three chapters of The Cooking Gene, Michael W. Twitty, explores African American culinary history in the South, and illustrates the major role that food plays in the identity of a culture’s makeup. In these three chapters, Twitty uses his passion for food in order to gain a greater understanding and appreciation of his African American identity. In the chapter “No More Whistling Walk for Me,” Twitty mentions that for him “…food is in many cases all [he] ha[s] [to] go to in order to feel [his] way into [his] past.” (21) as his heritage and ancestry is largely unknown due to slavery in the United States. Twitty discovers the unspoken pieces of African American history by studying the food that his family eats.

In the chapter, “Hating My Soul,” Twitty describes the significance of his families’ kitchen in his childhood. Twitty recalls the numerous meals that his family cooked together, which played a major role in the understanding of his family’s identity, and the various important conversations that took place at his kitchen table, such as when he came out as gay to his family. Twitty’s description of his family’s kitchen table as a place of “…argument, and resolution,” (40) resonated with me because a lot of important conversations and debates within my family take place at our kitchen table. Every night my family gathers for a family dinner at our kitchen table, where we talk about each other’s days’ and events that are taking place in our lives. A lot of really important information within my family is talked about at our kitchen table, such as when my parents told my siblings and I that our two new cousins were being born.

Furthermore, Twitty’s remark that “Food is often a necessary vehicle between one’s ancestors or the spiritual forces that guide their destiny,” (59) really connected with me because there are a few recipes within my family that have been passed down from my great-grandparents that symbolize my family’s history. For example, every Thanksgiving my grandpa cooks home-made blueberry pies that his grandmother used to cook for him when he was a child. The first three chapters in Twitty’s The Cooking Gene, made me realize the immense insight that food offers into families’ identities and history.

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Jeffrey Sprung 8/30 Blog Post Assignment

In A People’s History of the United States, Howard Zinn attempts to emphasize many historical events from the standpoints of the minority groups involved in attempt to provide a more well-rounded version of historical events. The first chapter within the novel titled “Columbus, the Indians, and Human Progress” focuses on mistreatment of Indians in Hispainola perpetuated Christopher Columbus. The ideas in this chapter directly connect with our class discussion as many people in the United States still view Columbus’ legacy as heroic and the colonization of the Americas does not emphasize the lives and legacy of the Indians as much. After reading about the Columbus’ brutal treatment and mass murder that he inflicted on the Indians, I was shocked that Columbus is still heroicized within the United States.

 

I was really intrigued by Zinn’s description of the values in the Indians culture within the chapter. It was very interesting to me that the Indian’s culture was so much more accepting than the European culture. If Columbus didn’t catalyze the mass genocide of Indians in the Americas, and ruin their identity and culture, I wonder if the Indians values of equality between sexes, sharing of possesions, kindness, and peace would have been more prominent at earlier stages of the United States history. On a separate note, I was also surprised by cruelty of Columbus that was documented by Bartolomé de las Casas as I did not realize the magnitude of Columbus’ destruction on Indians upon his colonization until I read this chapter.

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