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Author: Alexander Seeley

The “Jungle” Effect: Institutionalized Racism

Last class we discussed the issue of labeling African-Americans as animalistic, and further the systemic issues in our society which allow the existence of these stereotypes. In Nicolette’s blog she discussed the cultural effects of slavery on all of society. Whites were instilling animistic conditions for African-Americans creating a perpetual cycle which continues to exist today. Further, as we saw in the scene with the Schoolteacher where Sethe heard the students dividing her characteristics into either the animalistic category or the humane, certain aspects of slavery remain implicitly as a consequence of perpetuating racist education. Nicolette wrote, “Whites who acted as reluctant participants are often just doing what they think their role is in life.” The implicit racism which remains because of slavery couldn’t/can’t be solved by legislative action but needed a re-education of layers of misguided, racist propaganda. 

Although there were many white folks who were helping the movement, there were many (including those you helped) who couldn’t accept their willful ignorance and properly deal with the issue. Continuing to oppress blacks allows for us to disregard such past issues, but in this case we aren’t able to actually investigate the lasting effects of slavery it has only not only blacks but whites as well. Referring to the perpetual oppressing cycle,Morrison wrote, “It was the jungle white folk planted them in.” This “jungle” (system) which white folk instilled has continued to exist. The self-understanding by whites of their awful history and their implicit sentiments seems to be too rich and deep of an issue for many to uncover. Morrison further writes, it is the “screaming baboon living under their white skin.” Oppression is easy to do for society, what becomes a more convoluted and exposing issue is when we try display the truths of our past and the every-lasting effects we continue to face.

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Paul D’s interference: Harsh but needed

 Denver and Paul D’s relationship is rough at the start but I hope his presence will allow Denver to learn a lot. Further I hope she will learn to appreciate him. Within a couple days of Paul D’s arrival, Denver was hearing her mother tell stories of which she may have never heard unless Paul came around. His presence, although jolting and aggressive was needed as he could play the role o mediator between Denver and Sethe. Paul further acted as some pathway of communication between the two. Interestingly, when the three are enjoying the carnival, Sethe notices this glowing potential which Paul D brings out of them. “They were not holding hand but their shadows were.” (59) Although at first it seems Paul D could add another level of tension to the household, I believe he enters the stage at a perfect time where exactly someone of his assertiveness and questioning was needed to solve deep seeded issues within and between Denver and Seth. 

On the last page of Chapter 4 Denver expressed her potential liking to Paul D after he persuaded her with all types of candies and treats at the Carnival. She described the comfortability Paul D commanded as he “pleased her enough to consider the possibility that Paul D wasn’t all that bad. In fact there was something about him – when the three of them stood together watching Midget Dance – that made the stares of other Negroes king, gentle, something Denver did not remember seeing in their faces.” (61) The last part of this quote stuck out to me the most as it inferred that Denver always had seen negroes as harsh, even ugly. For some reason, Paul’s  entertainment allowed her a different perspective. Perhaps, Denver only heard ugly stories which her mother shared and never was introduced to the idea Paul D brought that African-Americans could be beautiful both physically and mentally as well. 


Theme for English B

I highlight this particular poem for the three lines at the bottom of the second stanza which read, “I guess being colored doesn’t make me not like the same things other folks like who are other races. So will my page be colored that I write?” I am attracted to this poem for a couple of reasons including it’s highlight on the all-interacting ‘hive’ we live in where every moving part of society is connected to another in some way. This twenty-two year old colored college student writes a poem that comes out of him, but he goes into this assignment with the understanding that not only will his assignment be colored  but a part of his white instructor as well. He further includes his environmental circumstances, New York and more specifically Harlem. Being the only colored student in class, his experience living in Harlem is entirely different from his fellow classmates who live in a different part of the city. However he doesn’t disregard this as a negative aspect but an accepted truth to everyday life. Every body around him is different and is faced with various opportunities/struggles, and this is what he argues makes the assignment ‘American’.

When talking about his white instructor he writes, “Sometimes perhaps you don’t want to be me. Nor do I often want to be a part of you. But we are, that’s true! As I learn from you, I guess you learn from me–” This poem beautifully highlights the positive and negative aspects of the black/white relationship in America. For this relationship to co-exist in a semi respectful and humane nature we need to embrace our history and learn what we can from experiences of others. Everybody’s difference whether black/white/asian/latino/etc.. needs to be fully embraced in order to exist as a true democracy. Theme for English B emphasizes the importance of needing to hear someone’s story before assuming a general sentiment or attributing stereotypes.

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Uncle Tom’s Cabin Popular Culture Position and Influence

Uncle Tom’s cabin acted an emotional mirror and influenced people’s perspective on slavery. The immediate backlash which followed its’ release highlighted its immense power as a ‘psychological weapon’ against the promoted system in place. In many places in the South, story tellers altered it making Tom a buffoon who enjoyed his position as a slave. However the book held a  net positive influence and highlighted many issues concerning slavery which weren’t spoken about such as detailed stories of the complex and layered relationships between slaves, both men and women and their masters. Uncle Tom’s Cabin was revolutionary for its’ inclusion of the female experience during these times. Additionally, having a female author doing with this time was rare, and having a female writer with the most popular book of its time was unheard of. Stowe became a figurehead who Lincoln regarded as a spark to the opposition of the existing institution. 

Uncle Tom’s Cabin undoubtedly sparked a conversation. Whether people were angered or intrigued, there was no avoiding it. It gained its’ place as a discussion point of the complex/inhumane nature of slavery. It told a story which communicated to the mob of society. Similar to the music, t.v., video games, social media, etc… we have today as pop culture, Uncle Tom’s Cabin acted in the realm of influence unavoidable to anyone. Just as we can’t dismiss pop culture’s icons nowadays, we can’t dismiss such avenues as Uncle Tom’s Cabin because it represented our values/motives at the time. 

We learned about Shakespeare’s notoriety for being vulgar yet he has appeared in culture, as well as pop culture since. Although it is so easy  for the masses to disregard pop culture as vapid, we have to understand the influential power of it. Uncle Tom’s Cabin opened doors of discussion which politicians couldn’t talk about. This is crazy! The fire which Stowe kindled caused a “profound cultural and ideological rebellion.” Not only do we have to be aware and respectful of such power, but further investigate the interworking of popular culture’s leadership systems in our society.


Richard II- Modern Correlations and Historical Political Cycles

Isaac butler’s article titled, “Did Richard II Provoke an Elizabeth Rebellion,” discusses the possibility of its’ use as propaganda as the ruling monarch at the time, Elizabeth wasn’t performing well and many of the people thought her illegitimate and wrong for the throne. The play Richard II depicted Richard with close similarities to Elizabeth such as their common over-priced/ failed wars in Ireland as well as their lack of legitimacy, and effeminate characteristics. There are questions of the correlation between Richard II and the Earl of Essex’s rebellion against Queen Elizabeth. It has been thoroughly researched and hypothesized that the Earl of Essex’s men watched Richard II the day before overthrowing Elizabeth as a sort of justification enhancement of their planned usurping. Solidifying the Earl of Essex’s reasons to fight, Richard II was the perfect antidotal play in explaining why Elizabeth’s power wasn’t legitimate and the Earl’s would be.

The play follows the downfall of Richard II as Henry IV rebelled through the years, building allies and creating legitimacy. The play seems to signify a political historical cycle in which the people of England were supposed to relate to their existing situation and do something about. As Henry IV was successful in his usurpation, the people of England would assumingely gain the same confidence the Earl and his men had by watching Richard II. They would believe what they were doing was right and with the knowledge that it is possible.  

The historical cycles which Shakespeare alludes to raises tons of questions. Was Henry good or bad? Did Richard deserve to be usurped and if he did was Henry acquiring the crown in a legitimate way? In a similar fashion, Shakespeare’s political commentary can be applied throughout time as the political cycles continue. As the play ‘Richard II’ was considered pop culture, it was a way to relay a message to every common person. As common folk didn’t read or write, plays were the ultimate way of spreading propaganda. Communicating such feelings to the common people is crucial in order to assemble some kind of political movement. 

Today, with Trump as our president, America is in an extremely two sided political world. Is his power legitimate? There are solid grounds for both yes and no but is either side right?  Similarly to Richard II, the common folk are made aware of the ‘behind the scenes’ in the political world which very many long term processes and strategies have to be applied in order to obtain ultimate ‘legitimate’ power. Resemblances of current president Trump to such leaders as Hitler are scary, especially as we find that political history is cyclical. What is even scarier is the fact that once any leader, especially monarchs or presidents are very hard to impeach because of their tentacles of influence, whether legitimate or illegitimate. So how do we discuss legitimacy seems to be the question. In a world of media, there is not much left out of the public eye. So how far can certain groups go, holding convictions of legitimacy with so many examples of illegitimate acts. It seems that with political historical evidence that this might not matter as the current ruling leader usually has influence reaching to every political realm preventing any justified rebellion.

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