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Author: Kayla O'Connell

11/30 Blog Post

After finishing the movie Dear White People, I was able to self reflect. The movie did a great job at sparking conversation about important topics and conversations. The movie presented issues in a seamless way, so that the audience was not too uncomfortable and could understand the situation clearly. The conversations that were brought up in the movie are very apparent on college campuses today. Many students turn a blind eye to the issues on our campuses and pretend as if there is no issue at all. For example, on the University of Richmond campus, students are still fighting for the change in dorm hall names. A few of the dorms are named after racist slave owners of history. The fact that this has not yet been changed, highlights the larger issue at play at the University of Richmond. 

The movie continues the discussion of racism through direct comments on certain issues. Sam acts as the forerunner in addressing hurtful stereotypes such as: Black people don’t tip well, the usage of the “Honorary Black card”, and the stereotype with weed. In fact, Sam calls out one of her friends who was smoking and says, “Stop stereotyping yourself and put that down”. The fact that Sam says this so directly, makes the viewer reflect. I would recommend this movie to people who want to educate themselves regarding race relations. I really liked this movie! 

 

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11/16 Blog Post

In this week’s reading of PHUS, Zinn outlines the history of opposition movements in the United States. Americans from a variety of backgrounds became involved in movements (such as the national movement against nuclear weapons) in hopes to create a change in something that they believed in. As a result of these movements, the Reagan administration acted poorly. His administration ignored the public opinion and acted against their wishes. Again and again in history we see our presidents ignore the opinion of  the people. This creates a disconnection between the government and the United States people. 

When Bush was president, he attempted to create a loophole in avoiding a national antiwar movement. In 1991, The United States bombed Iraq with overwhelming force so that the war would be over quickly. Unlike the Vietnam War, the movement against the Gulf War expanded with extraordinary speed and vigor. Unions, who once supported the Vietnam War, spoke against the Gulf War. Information networks sprang up during the Gulf War to tell what was not being told in the major media. Other sources of media developed as well such as alternative newspapers and radio stations. Despite the fact that the government attempted to withhold information from the American people, movements still occurred. Throughout history, we continuously see movements from people in hopes to see positive change.

 

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11/09 Blog Post

In the article “Four Decades and Counting: The Continued Failure of the War on Drugs”, the authors outline drug prohibition policies in the U.S. and the War on Drugs. Throughout our lives, we are constantly told how horrible illicit drugs are. Individuals who are caught with these drugs receive harsh punishments and jail time. Prohibition policies implemented by the United States are believed to reduce drug-related crime, decrease drug-related disease and overdose, and act as an effective means of disrupting criminal enterprises. Contrary to my belief, the article concludes that this is truly not the case. The prohibition of illicit drug use has created some harsh consequences. There has been an increase in overdoses and drug-related illnesses as the quality control mechanisms and information is weaker. There is no avid reporting of impure substances, as they would be breaking the law if they reported. This has led sellers to create more potent materials and switch to harder drugs as they want to increase their profits. Violence has also increased due to the fact that individuals can not resort to the police for their problems. 

Prohibition policies have also promoted and strengthened drug cartels. In fact, the U.S. War on Drugs led directly to the rise of the Columbian drug cartels and the creation of Super Labs. The authors then discuss why they believe we should consider legalizing drugs. They believe that there will be large positive effects with racial issues as well as counter ongoing trends of militarized police. As states continue to legalize Marijuana, it will be interesting to see how our government will respond in the future. Will the United States ever think to legalize drugs like Portugal has done? Will marijuana be legal everywhere? 

 

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Platoon Post 11/02

In the movie Platoon, we follow a group of soldiers fighting in the Vietnam War. I found this movie to be extremely enlightening about the real truths of the war. The movie did a great job of depicting the challenging environments experienced by the soldiers. The movie highlighted the steep cliffs, dense shrubbery, bugs, snakes, rain, and humidity. This new environment was extremely unique to the United States military as it was difficult for them to train for these conditions. This gave the Vietnamese an advantage, as they were able to adjust and train for this environment. 

I also was surprised to watch the different types of relationships formed in the platoon. The men constantly swore at one another and disrespected each other. It often seemed like they didn’t have each other’s backs and did not act like a team. This makes me question whether the war effort was over before it even started. Can a military force win when the soldiers have a low morale and do not act like a team? 

Another eye-opening scene for me was the village scene. When the U.S. soldiers arrived at the village, they immediately harassed the civilians and destroyed their things. The soldiers proceeded to kill innocent civilians, sexually harassed girls, and burned the village down. Whenever I hear about these types of actions in war, I never assume that the United States could be responsible. I often forget that the country we praise to be ours can act the same way as other countries do.

 

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Blog Post 10/26

The poems written by Langston Hughes were extremely powerful. Not only did they invoke emotion, but also called for action in America. After listening to the podcast, it is clear that Langston was an influential individual. In fact, MLK alluded to Hughes’ poems in his “I have a Dream” speech. Usually I do not enjoy reading poetry, but I actually found his poems to be both interesting and influential. 

In the poem “Will V-Day Be Me-Day Too?” Hughes addresses the issue of equality between white and black Americans. Despite the fact that both Black and White soldiers are fighting together, they are not considered equal off the battlefield. He emphasizes the fact that he is fighting for America like all the White soldiers, but will not receive the same treatment once they arrive home. It’s truly heartbreaking to see that the United States forced Black Americans to fight for the U.S in WWII, but would not consider fighting for their civil rights at home. 

In the poem “Theme For English B” Hughes highlights the fact that he is the only Black student in his class. Despite being Black, he enjoys the same things that the White students enjoy. I found the quote “As I learn from you, I guess you learn from me—although you’re older—and white—and somewhat more free.” to be interesting. The fact that he questions whether his professor can learn from him because he is not white is crazy. Race should have no impact on whether an individual can learn from one another.

 

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Blog Post 10/19 – Kayla O’Connell

In this week’s reading of PHUS, the truth behind the United States’ intentions in WWII were revealed. When we read about the United States’ involvement in our early education, we always learned about how heroic our country was and how the U.S. alone saved the world from the Nazi’s.  Contrary to what our textbooks have taught us, the truth is quite the opposite. When WWII broke out, the United States did little about Hitler’s policies of prosecution. Zinn explains that, “It was not Hitler’s attacks on the Jews that brought the United States into World War II, any more than the enslavement of 4 million Blacks brought the Civil War in 1861” (410). We learn about how heroic our country was in WWII, when in reality we only entered the war because of economic reasons and Pearl Harbor.

 

Pearl Harbor was presented to the American people as “a sudden, shocking, immoral act”. However, this was truly not the case. Although the bombing was immoral, the event itself was not shocking to the American government. The American government already initiated economic sanctions against Japan that they recognized might risk war. Roosevelt ignored this fact and lied to the public about two incidents involving German submarines.  He thought that these lies were for the right cause.

 

Zinn continues to highlight the truth about monumental events in American history. Over and over throughout history we learn the true intentions of our government. Democrats and businessmen in WWII were focused on making sure that the American economic power would be “second to none in the world” at the end of the war. This economic war was aimed to save capitalism at home and abroad. This makes me question whether our government has started any war without having some sort of economic intention behind it. Is the United States really a “defender of hopeless countries” or are they more concerned about the economy?

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Blog Post 10/12- Kayla O’Connell

In the article “Spanish Flu”, we learned the origins and the history behind the deadly 1918 pandemic. The 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic infected 500 million people worldwide. The pandemic killed 20-50 million people worldwide. Citizens of the time were “ordered to wear masks, schools, theaters and businesses were shuttered and bodies piled up in makeshift morgues before the virus ended it’s deadly global march”. The first wave of the spanish flu was generally mild. Individuals who were infected experienced mild flu symptoms. However, the second wave appeared again within the same year. Individuals who were infected during this time usually died within hours or days of developing symptoms. All in all, around 3 percent of the world population died from this pandemic. Not only did the Spanish Flu wipe out entire families, but also took a heavy toll on society. The funeral parlors were overwhelmed, people had to dig their own graves for family members, the economy was negatively impacted, and there were not enough farmers to harvest crops. 

Different cities tried to stop the Spanish Flu by utilizing different tactics. New York City tried to slow the transmission of the flu by implementing shifts on the subways. Missouri closed schools and movie theaters as well as public gatherings. San Francisco residents were fined $5 if they were caught without wearing a mask. Whereas, Philadelphia claimed that the Spanish Flu was a “normal flu”. 

Fast forward to 2020 and we are once again facing a global pandemic. Sadly, we have yet to learn from our mistakes of 1918. We were too slow to respond to Covid due to the mismanagement of our government. Our lack of leadership led to misinformation regarding dangerous cures. In addition, our lack of trust made it harder for the right treatments to be spread. Covid continues to spread across the world and infect millions of people. At the rate at which we are progressing, I question if Covid will have a second wave like the Spanish Flu did. If we don’t act quickly and follow the rules recommended to us, our future as we know it could be extremely deadly. 

 

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Blog Post 10/05- Kayla O’Connell

When reading How The Other Half Lives by Jacob Riis, I was immediately appalled by the way he spoke of both Italian and Chinese immigrants. In “Chapter V”, Riis outlines his different opinions on Italian immigrants. He characterizes them as attention cravers, illiterate and hot-headed. He claims that the slums welcome them as tenants and Italians will “eat his meals under the dump, on the edge of slimy depths and amidst surroundings full of unutterable horror”(52). Throughout the entire chapter Riis only listed out a variety of stereotypes, insults, and back-handed compliments. In “Chapter IX”, Riis once again outlines his unwanted opinions on the Chinese in Chinatown. He claims that the Chinese lack a handle of strong faith, are weak, and both stealthy and secretive. Riis even goes so far to say that Chinese immigrants serve no useful purpose to the United States and therefore we “must make the best of them”. I was disgusted to read the utter amount of disrespect that he had for these Chinese immigrants. 

 It’s truly sad to see that these immigrants were treated differently all because they wanted new and better opportunities for themselves and their families. They shouldn’t have to deal with the alienation and rude insults from other citizens in the United States. To this day, a large percentage of the United States population refuses to accept immigrants. We ignore the fact that they are humans and are craving a better life. We are so quick to judge individuals who are not like us. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect and equality. Although the general perspective on immigration has improved, I wonder when this concept will be accepted by all. The topic of immigration continues to be a touchy subject for the U.S. and I wonder how policy will change in the future.

 

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Blog Post 09/28 – Kayla O’Connell

In this week’s reading of PHUS, Zinn outlines the complicated and disgusting past of slavery during the civil war. The United States government supported slavery at the time due to the vast economic benefits derived from plantations. Despite the fact that the slave trade was abolished, 250,000 enslaved individuals were illegally transported into America before the civil war. Although this number is only a statistic, they can only show so much. A statistic can never truly portray the pain of families being torn apart or the violence that an individual experienced. I find it crazy that our own government supported plantations because of the economic benefits. This highlights how transactional our government can really be. 

Zinn also documented Abraham Lincoln and his thoughts on slavery. When running for the election, Lincoln was able to blend the interests of the very rich and the interests of the Blacks at a moment in history where their interests seemed to intersect. History books tend to glamorize Lincoln and his impact on slavery. To my surprise, Zinn described that Lincoln did not denounce the Fugitive Slave Laws. In fact, he wanted to send the enslaved individuals back to Africa because he didn’t see them as equal. The Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation was a military move that Lincoln thought would spur antislavery forces. Even the leaders that were a part of monumental moments of history all seem to have ulterior motives. 

I really enjoyed watching the video that was assigned for class this week. Not only did the video outline the Civil War in great detail, but also added a funny twist to history. I found the use of comics and memes to be beneficial to my learning. The video was able to keep my attention from beginning to end.

 

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Blog Post 09/21 – Kayla O’Connell

In chapter 5 of PHUS, Zinn outlines the sad truth behind the oppression of women throughout the history of the United States. Zinn explains that “Women were expected to be subject to their husbands in all things” and were exploited and oppressed in basically all aspects of their lives. Men placed unrealistic expectations on women’s lives and told women to be passive. Men were expected to sin, but women were not. As a result of this oppression, women were able to create a sense of solidarity amongst each other and formed strong bonds. 

After reading this chapter I definitely felt a sense of discomfort. It’s so sad to think that women actually had to live in these conditions. They were not given the respect nor the opportunities that they deserved. As a woman, I often find myself taking advantage of the rights that women in history fought so hard to obtain. Although there has been improvement in the fight for equality for women, gender roles are still extremely prominent in society today. Women have faced new challenges in establishing themselves in the workforce and still being responsible for the majority of the work in their households. How long will it take to change the perceptions of gender roles? Will the roles ever truly balance out or be reversed?

 

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Blog Post 09/14- Kayla O’Connell

In the reading “A Kind of Revolution” Howard Zinn discusses the American Revolution. I found this chapter particularly interesting as it created a brand new perspective for me. When discussing important moments in history, we often glorify the leaders, officers, and generals. We often forget to mention the hard working common people & soldiers. We downplay their efforts and create these “god-like” identities for their leaders. As I internally reflect on myself, I realize I have done the same. Throughout my daily life, I catch myself thinking of the leader of the group as more important and worthy than everyone else. Whether it’s a team or another group of people this happens often. 

 

Zinn also mentions the Constitution and the intuition & thoughts behind it. The Constitution failed to represent slaves, indentured servants, women, and men without property. Charles Beard explains that the founding fathers created this document in order to represent their dominant economic interests & intended to serve these interests. Zinn further analyzes the Constitution by saying it, “illustrates the complexity of the American system: that it serves the interests of a wealthy elite, but also does enough for small property owners, for middle-income mechanics and farmers, to build a broad base of support”(99). The Constitution created this foundation, yet people are still being treated differently by law enforcement. We claim to be the land of the free, but our own American people are not being treated equally. It is through our actions and desire for change that can create an everlasting impact on our country for the better. 

 

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Kayla O’Connell- Blog Post for 09/07

This week’s readings were surprisingly unique in style when compared to our previous readings. I like how we were able to read a first-person perspective because it introduced a more casual style of conversation. As a result, I was able to delve deeper into his stories along with feeling a stronger sense of emotion. 

 

In the reading “Hating my Soul” by Twitty, he connected his love for food with the culture that he struggled to accept. Despite his efforts to avoid his culture, it was constantly surrounding him, as the walls of his dining room were covered with African pictures that he was convinced were staring at him. Below the African paintings was a record player with a variety of albums that played different styles of music depending upon who was cooking in the kitchen at that moment. One day, Twitty found an album by Steve Curry that was filled with racist assumptions and stereotypes regarding the types of food that black people supposedly ate. Twitty explained that not only were these stereotypes incorrect, but also extremely disrespectful and disgusting. 

 

Oftentimes, people make assumptions about individuals without even thinking. We associate individuals to certain things in an attempt to understand them better. These assumptions are usually extremely general and do not take into account the individuals specific likes and dislikes. Last semester, I took a course where we learned about Business in Imperialistic colonies. In the course we learned about the introduction of multiculturalism into British society, specifically curry houses. The Chinese individuals living in British society struggled with racist stereotypes and assumptions tied to the “stank of curry” that was associated with their culture. The Chinese were treated less than everyone else as a result of these harmful stereotypes. This created an uneven playing field for these individuals living in British Society. Instead of creating bias’s about an individual, we should disrupt these judgements and try to learn about the individual and their culture. It is through this process of learning that we will be able to appreciate one another. Not only was this reading interesting, but also highlighted the effects that stereotyping can have on an individual and their perception of their culture.

 

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Kayla O’Connell Blog Post for 08/30

After reading the first chapter of “A People’s History of the United States” by Howard Zinn, I was filled with disappointment. Throughout the first chapter,  Zinn paints a portrait of Christopher Columbus & other conquerors who exploited the people of their new conquered lands. Zinn describes the inhabitants as both kind and extremely generous with both their belongings and manpower. Despite their kind efforts, Columbus exploited, raped, burned, and killed these innocent people. Throughout the chapter, Zinn continues to illustrate the disgusting truth behind numerous other unethical acquisitions in the Americas. Sadly, many other historical pieces of literature continue to ignore the truth behind these different historical events. 

As I reflect on these different events, one of Zinn’s questions remains prominent in my mind. Zinn asks, “Was all this bloodshed and deceit… a necessity for the human race to progress from savagery to civilizations”(17)? Although the Native Americans were forced into this new form of “civilization”, they should have been given the choice. In fact, the destruction of these peoples didn’t benefit their own civilization, but rather the white, European world. If Christopher Columbus and others never found the Americas, what would civilization look like today? I also have begun to question other important moments of history and how the removal of these events would have changed our society today. That goes to show how important historical events are to the formation of present day events.

 

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