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Author: Thomas Bennett

MLK Charismatic Leadership 10/21

It is interesting to contemplate how as the amount of credit King is given for the success of the Civil Rights Movement, the amount given to the constant rebellion of black Americans naturally decreases. By idealizing King the way modern society does, we often under credit the smaller grass roots movements that truly moved black Americans closer to equal rights. I had never heard of the perspective that whether or not Martin Luther King Jr. was present, black people would’ve still fought for and successfully eliminated Jim Crow Laws in the south. We as a society cannot neglect the impact of smaller leaders as well as the tremendous amount of people who dedicated their lives to the Civil Rights movement. Making King into such a heroic figure, romanticizes the story of the civil rights movement and has taken the focus off of the vast amount of nameless African Americans who fought and suffered for equality. It is easier for white society to learn about racial inequality through the lens that one man came along and through his unwavering belief in non-violence ended racism in America. The harsher reality of the fight for racial equality is that it has been happening since the founding of the United States and has not always been peaceful. The reality is that racism still exists in many forms today and that millions of Americans are going to have to put in work to lessen the racism experienced by minorities.

The reading does a good job emphasizing that the accomplishments of MLK go far beyond just being a strong speaker. While his impact has been exaggerated throughout history, his actions in search of equality have also been oversimplified to his charismatic speeches. Not only did MLK become a figure head who could inspire black Americans and have white Americans understand his perspective, but he also actively involved and “immersed” within the everyday actions of Black Americans in search of equality. King himself recognized that perhaps the movement was becoming to closely related to his own identity and within speeches mentioned that the movement existed far beyond himself. The reading also points out how dangerous it is to deeply undermine King’s legacy, as in doing so people will begin to doubt the rest of what he stood for. That is not what I intended in this blog post and it is important that while we as society begin to recognize the true scale of king’s effect on the Civil Rights Movement, we don’t unintentionally under appreciate him or what he stood for. Martin Luther King Jr. was a great leader who deserves to be remembered in history for speeding up and making the civil rights movement less violent, but he was a smaller part of the movement than history credits him for according to historians like Carson.

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10/14 The Yellow Wallpaper Tommy Bennett

The narrator in the Yellow Wallpaper is a woman afflicted with severe mental health issues whose problems are not being taken seriously or treated properly by her husband who is a doctor. Her individual story is representative of issues the entire female population faced in the late 1800s when the story was released. The entire story she obsesses over the ugly yellow wallpaper in her bedroom and believes that their is a woman trapped behind it. At the end of the story she rips all the wallpaper off the walls in an attempt to free the women. This trapped woman represents the restrictions placed on women in society and how they feel imprisoned by the rules put in place by the patriarchal society around them. This patriarchal society is represented by her husband who seemingly imprisons her in the house and refuses to allow her to do what she wants under the diagnosis of hysteria. Hysteria was the common diagnosis given to women of the time when they became dissatisfied by their living conditions as the all male medical world believed their reactions to the world around them were unjustified. The woman intends to trap the female figure with a rope, but seemingly fails to do so. She doesn’t fail because she was to slow to catch the crawling creature, but instead once the wall paper is removed she transforms into the newly freed female. The woman she believes to be behind the wallpaper and herself are one in the same. She was attempting to free herself from the boundaries of her oppression by ripping the wall paper down.

The wallpaper comes to represent the prison that women are trapped in by societies rules and that is why the woman obsesses over it. Once she sees the inequality of the world she is incapable of simply ignoring it as her husband wishes. This is similar to feminist throughout history. Once they recognized their subjugated position in the world, they were incapable of turning a blind eye, as the men in power hoped they would, and responded with a desperate need to pursue change. The women embodies this desperate need for change through her constant removal of the wallpaper with her bare hands. She becomes so frustrated by being unable to move the bed, to get wallpaper that she to high to reach, that she actually bites the corner of it which results in pain. This bite does a good job of representing how difficult and frustrating the fight for gender equality has allows been for women as they were forced to appeal to men, who benefited from their oppression, for equal rights.

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War is the Health of the State 10/5 Tommy Bennett

The first amendment of the United States Constitution was intended to protect Americans’ right to say whatever they want, practice whatever religion they wish, protect freedom of press, and defend peaceful protest. Does this amendment truly protect individual American’s rights if it can be taken away at the moment citizens truly need it? This kind of injustice is exactly what the vague language used in the creation of the Espionage Act of 1917 allowed to happen. Since the early 20th century, one of the main goals of the United States government has been to prevent the spread of socialism throughout its population. Preserving capitalism is in the best interest of the people who hold power within the United States government, as well as those who hold influence over those “leaders” through economic means. By making adverse opinions to the war illegal, the United States could also effectively silence socialists of the time and that is exactly what they did. Through propaganda they were able to equate being a socialist with being anti-American, and could therefore unjustly arrest socialist leaders with the support of the general public. It is disgraceful that the supreme court didn’t recognize the law as completely unconstitutional in the Schenck case and it is clear that checks and balances failed those who stood in opposition to the government when they needed it most. While it is extremely difficult to anticipate censorship, I do believe that social media and increased communication through technology makes it more difficult for the government to silence its people. Although all Americans need to stay vigilant that the government or other powerful groups don’t use their resources to obstruct the 1st amendment.

 

The US used the propaganda to make it seem as though the war was the just thing to do and to claim it would be “The War to End All Wars” when in fact their reasoning was capitalistic as is the usual of the government. The US was making so much money through supplying the allies, but were still shocked when Germany refused to acknowledge their neutrality. You can’t both supply one side and claim neutrality. It is debatable whether Germany was justified or not in sinking the “Lusitania”, but the United States was somewhat responsible for their involvement in the war and had no right to act as though they had done nothing to provoke the attack. Additionally, once the war began, the people who acrued wealth were, per usual, the wealthy. It would appear to be true that the poor fight the rich people’s wars.

 

 

 

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9/30 The Myth of American Exceptionalism

Stephen M. Walt breaks apart American exceptionalism by demonstrating that it is not a concept unique to the United States, that it is often based on false idealizations of history, and that it is often not as morally proper as politicians lead the public to believe. After reading the article, it is quite clear that references to exceptionalism made by politicians are made in an attempt to get reelected. Making the American people feel as though they are apart of something bigger than themselves and inspiring nationalism through these statements is an extremely effective tool to increase one’s popularity. The consequence of this type of dialogue is that the American public has an inflated and egotistical view of the United State’s importance and popularity in terms of international affairs. This form of indoctrination creates a dangerous environment where the United State’s government acts globally under the justification of being upon the moral high ground, when in fact it is for less genuine reasons, for example monetary gain. One of Walt’s five myths about American exceptionalism is that the United States uses god being on its side as a way to justify its actions. This is another way that politicians manipulate the group of people they rule over as it increases the perception that the United States can do no wrong.

It is interesting to examine Walt’s comparison of United States exceptionalism to other nations who have employed exceptionalism to commit horrible actions. The true danger of exceptionalism is that the population being influenced are likely unaware of the unrealistic view they have of their countries actions. It seems that no matter what, world superpowers are bound to use exceptionalism to control their populations and said populations are destined to be influenced  by it. This blind view of one’s country, is often responsible for the downfall of said country. While it appears United States has not yet done anything so destructive as groups such as Stalin era Russia or Mao’s Great Leap Forward, the possibility exists that through the existence of exceptionalism we as a public are blind to the destruction of our countries current actions, or that future actions of our leaders may go morally unchecked. The key to not falling victim to an idealistic view of the United States is to learn, as we do in this class, about mistakes the United States has made in the past without viewing them as a singular moment in history, but instead viewing them as apart of a larger interconnected story.

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9/23 Tommy Bennett

In Rebecca Roanhorse’s “Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Culture”, the reader gets to see what the worst of cultural appropriation and commercialization could turn out to be.  A future is pictured where, using virtual reality, tourists are able to get an authentic Native American experience in exchange for money. The character of White Wolf is an extended metaphor for the way that white people exploit other communities’ cultures. While at first White Wolf merely seems to be a friendly stranger who wants to learn about Indigenous American’s culture, by the end of the story he has robbed the protagonist, Jesse Turnblatt, of everything. When white people enter into another culture’s space and assume parts of it as their own without experiencing any of the true hardship that comes with being a part of the group, it leaves true members of the culture stripped of their identity and sense of self as the protagonist is at the end of the story.

This fictional reading was made even more interesting by chapter 7: “As Long A Grass Grows Or Water Runs” in APHOTUS.  In this chapter, we learn about Andrew Jackson’s strategies of displacing indigenous people to further benefit white America. The chapter discusses how Jackson was hailed as an incredible leader in part for his military actions against indigenous tribes as well as how, as president, he supported Georgia’s right to remove the Cherokee tribe from its land in spite of the fact that the Cherokee helped him in an earlier battle against the Creek tribe. The history of the interactions between white and indigenous people is an unbelievable cruel one, which makes Roanhorse’s statement against cultural appropriation in her fictional story more powerful. As the cultural group that has directly caused much of the indigenous people’s suffering, it is even more inappropriate for white people to now adopt that culture as their own.

 

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Tommy Bennett 9/16

After all the readings of “A People’s History of the United States”, I am learning to be very wary of how history is told as the reader may not be receiving the full story. I am now going to examine the way that “Hamilton” presents the legacy of Alexander Hamilton and how realistic it actually is or whether it romanticizes his legacy. “Hamilton” is extremely progressive in its use of people of color as the actors for the founding fathers to demonstrate that even though they aren’t mentioned in textbooks, people of color have existed in all times. The musical does a phenomenal job documenting his affair with Mariah Reynolds through songs like “Say No to This” and the “Reynold’s Pamphlet”. The musical doesn’t simply brush it off and allow Hamilton’s legacy to continue unscathed as many other historical sources would.

In terms of his views on slavery, Hamilton wasn’t perfect, but he was far more progressive than the average founding father. Hamilton supporting arming Black Slaves and allowing them to fight for their freedom in the revolutionary war. Hamilton was a member of the Manumission society which sought for a slow emancipation of slaves in the United States. In spite of these two moments in his life, Hamilton still signed in favor of the 3/5 compromise which equated African American slaves to 3/5 of a white person in order to move the legislation of the United States forward.  Even more concerning was Hamilton’s handling of the Schuyler’s slave transactions and the possibility that he may have purchased slaves for his own household. It is not entirely certain whether Hamilton himself owned slaves or merely handled transactions for others. Hamilton’s grandson actually testified that records exist that state he did in fact own slaves during his lifetime. Nearly none of this is mentioned in the musical. While Hamilton’s slave crimes are much less extreme than that of say Thomas Jefferson, their exclusion does falsely romanticize history.

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9/9 Persons Of Mean and Vile Condition

“Through all that growth, the upper class was getting most of the benefits and monopolized political power. A historian who studied Boston tax lists in 1687 and 1771 found that in 1687 there were, out of a population of six thousand, about one thousand property owners. and that the top 5 percent- 1 percent of the population- consisted of fifty who rich individuals who had 25 percent of the wealth. By 1770, the top 1 percent of property owners owned 44 percent of the wealth” p.49

“The 3 Richest Americans Hold More Wealth Than Bottom 50% of the Country, Study Finds” Forbes 2017

Throughout this chapter, it becomes clear that much of the racism present in America during the 1600 and 1700s  spawned from white poverty/desperation that the upper class exploited as a means to guarantee their own wealth and power. The book clearly lays out evidence that racial hatred is not a naturally occurring phenomenon in humans so it must be developed through life experience. All throughout history those who have the money have the influence and ability to shape society to whatever suits their needs best. At the time it was in the upper classes’ interest to prevent white poor Americans from teaming up with black slaves to remove them from power. The book also mentions how it was in rich people’s interest to create a barrier between their property and the indigenous people and their means of doing so was by placing less wealthy white people there to act as a barrier. I became angry reading the chapter at the thought of rich people throwing their money around to manipulate society to their gain in a way that destroys the livelihood of so many people. Not only did they dehumanize an entire population of people based solely on their race, manipulate politics/politicians to secure there place in society, and allow the whole lower section of society to starve and go cold in winter, but they then proceeded to hoodwink that entire underprivileged section of society into believing they could move up in society and were not at the bottom of the totem pole through the exploitation of black and indigenous people.

The reasons I include the Forbes quote above is that it is eerily similar to the quote from the book despite the fact that they are speaking about time periods well over 200 years apart. My anger carries over to modern day. This is a textbook example of historical fallout and demonstrates that it is easy to see the faults of societies of the past, but more difficult to recognize the significance of modern day issues. Rich exploitation of the lower class and politics permeates history and still exists in our current period. After all, Americans today still go hungry and freeze during the winter, despite the fact that there are also Americans(Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffett) who have more wealth than they could ever possibly spend in one lifetime. One of the greatest moral flaws of our nation is that we allow for both of these social classes to exist in the name of capitalism. The majority of Americans do not seem to understand how little the system has changed over the years and how much they are being kept in the dark on these issues. The American Dream hoodwinks people into accepting the system with the belief that they could someday, through hard work, be apart of the exploiting group of society when it is highly unlikely. Even worse, the same minority groups of the past who paid the price for the economic gap, still suffer the consequences today.  How do you think people will write about the modern economic disparity in 200 years? I personally don’t think it will be viewed in a high regard.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/noahkirsch/2017/11/09/the-3-richest-americans-hold-more-wealth-than-bottom-50-of-country-study-finds/#277076913cf8

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Drawing the Color Line Tommy Bennett

This was the most difficult reading I have had to do during my brief time at Richmond. Reading about the mistreatment of African slaves especially in relation to their experience with the transatlantic slave trade was brutal, but also extremely necessary to understanding the depth of human cruelty. Readings like this are important and should be mandatory among all people. After reading about the unbelievable cruelties they endured it is much easier to understand how the racism of the past has carried over into today’s systematically racist institutions.

The detachment of African people from their cultures and communities starting in 1619 still has devastating ramifications on African Americans today. Not only was American slavery terrible for the physical conditions placed upon enslaved people, but also it stripped generations of people of a sense of self and community which is mentally devastating.  Zinn is completely correct in asserting that American slavery is the worst form of slavery to ever exist because its goals were endless capitalistic gain and for reducing black people to a less than human status. The first of which created an unbelievable supply and demand chain which displaced or killed as many as 50 million africans and the second of which is still responsible for many of societies modern inequalities. An example of this carry over would be that in a 2016 study on medical students about half of them still believed that black people experienced less pain than white people. Racist beliefs such as this still permeate society and are responsible for income inequality as well as institutionalized racism that results in things like black women being 3 to 4 times more likely to die in childbirth than white women.

I wanted to conclude my blog post by mentioning that I agree with Zinn’s conclusion that no true innate racism exists within humans and that prejudice is programmed into people throughout their lives by society. My evidence of this is usually the baby experiment where babies are willing to play with each other regardless of race, but I also enjoyed his evidence that white indentured servants and black enslaved people being more connected by their economic status than they were divided by their races. The fact that they often connected emotionally with each other before the creation of laws prohibiting it is evidence in support of no innate racism existing in humans.

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Concepts of Leadership 8/24

Throughout “Concepts of Leadership” Bernard M. Bass examines what forms of leadership have appeared throughout history in terms of time period and physical location as well as how different cultures viewed leaders. He uses the term “Purposeful Stories” to describe the way that leaders are remembered as time passes. It is interesting to think how a single decision made by a leader could be the basis of their entire legacy or the “stories” future people tell about them. The fact that leaders, at one point in time, were remembered solely through stories gives many historical  figures a sort of legendary ambiance that amplifies their accomplishments to an unattainable height.

It seems that throughout all points and places in history, great leaders were admired for their similar qualities and the positive effect they had on their followers. However, it seems the definition of what is a “great” leader has evolved with time through the changing of standards by the general public as well as the creation of new philosophical ideas. According to Bass, early leaders mentioned in the Old and New testament fell into categories such as “prophests, priests, chiefs, and kings”. While these figures were meant to demonstrate qualities that the entire population could employ to improve society as a whole, none of them were elected officials, but rather came into power through other means. These means included religious appointments, a  matter of blood right, or possibly both as can be seen with the belief in divine right to rule held within many monarchies. By today’s standards these leaders would be considered completely unjust and unfit to rule. It can be unfair to judge the leaders of the past by modern standards as it is highly possible that the leaders of today will be looked down upon by future generations. Looking at both the positive and negative qualities of past forms of leadership should alter the decisions we as a society make about who we put in charge as well as how leaders choose to lead. This is especially important as today in many places the people determine who is in power, instead of some other factor.

 

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