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Author: Alexander Barnett

Blog Post 10/30

Dear White People is a film focusing on the racial tensions between black and white people. The film is located in a fictional world on the campus of Winchester University. The main character Samantha White is an African American woman, who had just been excepted into Winchester, a predominantly white college. The movie portrays Sam’s experience and difficulties of being a black woman as she tries to find herself in her new environment while being confronted by stereotypes and racial tension.

I found this film to be very relevant to today’s society. Racism is a term that is often thrown around and its meaning can be often be lost especially by the people who are not experiencing it. This film helps with understanding what is considered right and wrong. There are instances when a white person thinks they are doing something harmless while in reality a black person finds it offensive toward them. I think it is always important to surround myself with movies and media such as this that take me out of my comfort zone. In order to truly understand what someone else is experiencing, I need to be able to humble myself and educate myself on the world around me.

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Blog Post 11/16

In Zinn’s latest chapter of A People’s History of the United States, Zinn tells the story of the anti-nuclear movement that began in response to the arms race between the United States and the USSR. In this chapter Zinn once again displays how despite our country being supposedly for the people, our leaders often push the populations’ opinion to the wayside. In this case, a vast majority of the US wanted nothing to do with the Cold War and the possibility of nuclear warfare. In fact, hundreds of colleges had meetings discussing this issue along with the largest protest in the history of our country. Despite all of this, President Reagen still went against their best wishes.

Much of the information I read throughout this chapter was new to me. Of course, I had learned about the Cold War and the threat of a possible nuclear fallout, but never anything about the mass disapproval Reagen and presidents before him received for promoting it. It seems that this pattern of the population’s opinion is taken as a grain of salt by its leaders is a common theme throughout our nation’s history and even today. I can’t help but wonder why we are not taught about these moments in greater detail in hopes to regain a sense of unity between the people and their government.

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Blog Post 11/9

After reading the article “Four Decades and Counting: The Continued Failure of the War on Drugs”, I realized how uninformed I was on the topic of Drug restrictions and prohibition. Personally, I had only really started to take notice of it when the first states began to legalize marijuana. I never realized how much these restrictions actually were affecting people not only in our country but outside of it too. I did, however, learn about the alcohol prohibition and the opposite effect it ended up having on alcohol consumption and how it actually did way more harm than good. However, it never struck me that the war on drugs has yielded similar results to the alcohol ban.

When Richard Nixon first declared war on drugs, I’m sure his intentions were good and were simply trying to protect citizens from the dangers of illicit drugs, however, similarly to the alcohol prohibition of 1920 it has done a lot more harm than Nixon probably had in mind. The penalties for being caught with illicit drugs have become so stingy that nearly half of the 186,000 prisoners in federal prison have been arrested because of drug-related charges. Not to mention the effects that a drug charge can have on someone’s life outside of prison. Tens of thousands of students a year are denied financial aid from universities because of their drug-related backgrounds, many people have trouble finding employment with limited job opportunities.

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Blog Post 11/2

Oliver Stone’s Platoon effectively displays the harsh reality of the Vietnam War. Throughout the film, we are exposed to the inhumane conditions and unjust treatment that soldiers were exposed to on a daily basis. The environment of Vietnam and the unique guerilla warfare tactics used by the Viet Cong caught many US soldiers off guard as they were not given the necessary training to be prepared for these challenges. Of course, to top this all off, many soldiers were, who often didn’t even want to be there in the first place, were treated like scum by their commanding officers.

The fact that Oliver Stone was a Vietnam War veteran himself added a lot to the production of this film. With his first-hand knowledge, many people including me were able to properly understand the true struggle that was the Vietnam War. While there is only so much one can learn from reading from a book, I felt that the film really brought the harsh conditions and improper treatment to life. As I watched this film, I wondered what other films of certain events in our history were created by people who experienced them first hand and how much of an effect this had on a film compared to a filmmaker who made a film based on something they read in a history book.

 

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Blog Post 10/26

As I read each poem by Langston Hughes, I noticed a common pattern that ran throughout each work. It seems that each poem expressed Hughes’ yearning to express himself in his full capacity, but coming across something that was holding him back. Although it was symbolized in different forms, its safe to say this blocking force is the segeregation and racism toward black Americans that Hughes experienced throughout his life.

I found Hughes message in “Will V-Day be Me-Day too?” to be quite powerful. The comparisons Hughes makes specifically to thew Germans and the way they treated the Jews really stuck with me. Although the US never went to the extremes the Nazis did during WW2, I found it ironic that a country could preach about how its wrong to treat another people differently when that same country is still streating its own people differntly based on their skin color. I also found it thought-provoking when Hughes asked if he would be “safe from harm” when he took off his uniform. I found it sad that white people would only cheer on black people when they went out to put their life on the line for a country that frankly didn’t care much for them. And I found it even sadder that as soon as they came back from this dangerous mission, they were still treated as if nothing had changed.

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Blog Post 10/19

In this chapter of PHUS and the article we were assigned to read, I once again found myself shocked at the information I was presented with. World War 2 is one of our nation’s favorite topics to brag about and when seeing a negative light being shed upon it is something I have little exposure to. I have often heard the argument about whether the use of nuclear weapons was necceassry, but decides that not much other rebutal.

One of the topics I found most disturbing was when Zinn stated that Roosevelt would not publicly oppose Hitler’s actions , specifically his persecution of the Jewish people. I also found it interesting when Zinn made the comparison to Abraham Lincoln in that both of their decisions not to speak out against the apparent evil at the time was based off of political motive. Although I realize the presidents job is to do what is best for their country, should this come at the expense of millions of human lives?

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Blog Post 10/12

After watching COVID-19 vs. Spanish Flu and reading about the effect the Spanish Flu had on not only the United States but the rest of the world, I was taken aback by the similarities of the two situations. One of the main things that bothered me was the fact that it has been over 100 years since the last global pandemic of this same magnitude, yet we still use the same equipment and techniques to fight against it. I would have thought that after the millions of people that died and over a half a million that died in the US alone, everyone would be invested in finding techniques and new innovations to completely stop or at a minimum minimize, the amount of damage that could be caused by another pandemic.

I also found it interesting how the second wave of the Spanish Flu was even more dangerous than the first, at least here in the US. With that being said, the decision to reopen businesses and start to go back to normal life here in 2020 should definitely be in question. You would have thought after seeing the damage a second wave caused in 1918 would cause lawmakers to be a little more hesitant about making the decision to reopen.

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Blog Post 10/5

After reading the chapters from How the Other Half Lives and the exerpts from Boderlands/La Frontera I realized how tough it is to succeed in our country, especially if you are a minority. Immigrants already have to take a huge risk by leaving our country and starting over in a foreign place, but they also often have to deal with poor living conditions. Not to mention the prejudice they recieve from stereotypes can make becoming accustomed to a new country almost impossible.

Arguably the most intimidating of all is the “unwritten law” to either conform or get out. What I mean by this is the harsh reality that many cultures face in the United States. Despite our countires diversity, there are still many examples of “white washing” going on everyday. The pressure to assimilate is real. This can come in the form of speaking English, or following certain traditions other than those of a person’s original culture. Although our country prides itself on being accepting of all diffeent types of people, this is not always the case.

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Blog Post 9/28

When I think of Abraham Lincoln, one of the first things that come to mind is the Emancipation Proclamation and the fact that Lincoln played a huge role in abolishing slavery. However, while reading Chapter 9 of Zinn’s PHUS and watching the first part of The American Civil War video, I realized that abolishing slavery wasn’t all that Lincoln was concerned about. Of course, I understood that the Civil War was first started because of disputes between State rights vs. Federal rights, but I always believed Lincoln was all for making the war about slavery.

In the chapter I read and the video I watched, I learned that Lincoln’s motivations weren’t entirely driven by freeing the slaves. On the contrary, his main goal was to keep the Union together. Lincoln knew that if he was blunt about getting rid of slavery, he would lose a lot of support, so he simply played it safe and said that from now on, no more states could have slavery. I also found it interesting that the only reason Lincoln finally decided to drop the Emancipation Proclamation is because of the foreign support the Confederacy was gaining. Although I understand to a degree where Lincoln was coming from, I still find it sad that basic human rights and liberties have to be politicized.

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Blog Post 9/21

As I was going through the readings, what stuck out to me the most was how long women have been fighting for equal rights. For the most part, I believed the fight for gender equality to be a more modern concept (late 1800’s), I did not realize that women had been fighting for an equal say since they arrived in the New World. Before reading the latest chapter of PHUS, I would have never compared the treatment of women to the treatment of slaves. However, after learning the sad truth about their treatment and conditions, women were not far off.

Similar to slaves, women were essentially treated as property and their master was their husband. Anything they accomplished or earned was their husband’s achievement. I also found it interesting that men tried to censor the content women were allowed to intake. They would allow them to read books, but only the ones that cemented the teachings they wanted women to abide by. Thankfully there were brave women such as Anne Hutchinson, who fought for women’s rights knowing fully that she would be punished severely.

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Blog Post

As I read this next chapter of A People’s History of the United States, I was surprised to learn about the requirements to become an elected official in the colonies. The most outrageous of these requirements was the one that required anyone running to have 5,000 pounds worth of property if they were running for governor and 1,000 pounds worth if they were running for senator. The fact that you could exclude 90% of the population from even having a chance at running is ridiculous

Because of this outlandish rule, the cycle of the wealthy controlling the poor would never have ended. It is also ironic that the people who made this rule were the ones who already met the requirements. They knew when they made this rule it would allow them to hold power without any competition. The only way to properly run a country is to have equal opportunity for everyone to become a decisionmaker. Although the rules and requirements are different in today’s United States, there is an argument to be made that bias has been created toward people of wealth and power.

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Blog Post 9/7

This week’s reading brought a breath of fresh air. In contrast to our previous readings, Michael Twitty gives us a personal account of his childhood and adult life as a black, Jewish, homosexual man.  Although Michael didn’t live during the period of time we were previously reading about, I still found his dialogue extremely interesting and thought-provoking.

Like Twitty, I have a similar experience to growing up in a certain culture. My mother’s side of the family is from New Orleans, Louisianna since her ancestors immigrated here 4 generations ago. I grew up in the rich culinary tradition that many people from the Bayou possess.  Whether it’s Jambalaya, crawfish boils, or king cake during Marti Gras, our culture is one I have a ton of respect for.

Unlike Michael, however, I never went through the hardships he went through. I am very grateful to be able to find where my ancestors came from, something Michael was not able to do. I did not have to deal with rejection as he did when he came out to his mother. And of course, I never had to face any kind of prejudice or racial stereotypes that he had to throughout his life. Despite all of this, it is remarkable how Michael embraces his culture and has a deep reverence to those who have gone before him, even though he may never know who they are.

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Blog Post 8/30

After reading the first chapter of Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, I am disappointed with America’s education system. I am aware of the mistreatment of the Natives by European settlers but not to the extent that was portrayed through this book. I feel as if it is almost a crime to hide this information from our youth. Of course, I understand that some of the events may be traumatizing or too gruesome but the fact that I didn’t even know there were millions of Natives killed in just this time period (not even including during Western expansion) is ridiculous and stunning.

I feel it is unfair for the historians who write our history textbooks to be able to decide what is fit for us to know or not. We should be given all the information in order to form our own opinion on the history of this country. It’s saddening that so many people celebrate Columbus Day, believing that Columbus was some great hero when in reality he was a greedy narrcessist with tunnel vision who didn’t care who or how many died as long as he got what he wanted

Additonally, as I reflect on the current state of our country, I wondered what it would be like if we modeled our behavior after the Natives. They respected each other for who they were. There were no laws yet people understood that their actions had consequences, but at the same time, if they properly atoned for their faults, they would be forgiven. No one was power hungry or invasive of other people’s property. Obviously, our world is very different from what it was over 400 years ago, but just understanding the principle of community and respecting others would take our country pretty far.

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