I feel very strongly about the what I saw as Connie’s challenge to us in our last class period. The way that she presented a point of view, one which is so pervasive throughout society and is a significant factor as to why structural racism still exists, was very difficult to provide coherent arguments against. I found myself struggling to put together words in order to say exactly what I wanted to say. I thought that the readings were very helpful in providing historical and theoretical evidence to back up our positions to try to convince Connie that her ideas about race and racism in our society should be reevaluated. She represented so much of the American population who are ignorant to how racism is so prevalent in our society and why that is. I enjoyed, as well as felt anxious about, our journey to finally start talking about how the roots of racism continue to permeate throughout our institutions and affect how we organize ourselves. The idea of race and racism as a social construction is very important to be clear about and I hope that we further our analysis and therefore understanding of such a complicated topic.
For spring break this year I ventured down to New Orleans to visit friends and partake in crazy Mardi Gras festivities. I had not known a lot about the traditions or the meaning of Mardi Gras and carnival time before I arrived, but from the moment my plane landed I started to learn a lot. After speaking to my friend throughout the week and experiencing many aspects of Mardi Gras, I can surely say that it is not all rooted in the accumulation of beads. As many cities in America, New Orleans has very wealthy and very poor sections, as well as sections that reflect middle socioeconomic statuses. While driving through the city, structural racism and direct effects of slavery were clear. I would be driving down one street with beautifully regal homes and then would turn the corner onto another street that had small homes that looked run-down. There was a serious discrepancy between who lived in these houses, as well as who could afford to make repairs after Hurricane Katrina. I found out that this “patchwork” layout of the city was derived from the era of plantations in which slave owners would want their slaves to live close to them for easy access, but would not want them directly on their land. Once I learned of this urban planning technique, I saw the city very differently and realized that there are a lot more racial inequalities that stem from slavery and perpetuation of racial discrimination.
The link included in this post is an excerpt from The Daily Show. I don’t watch the show on a regular basis, but I find that I agree with a lot of the ideas and opinions that John Stewart and the other people involved in the show try to convey to their audiences. I stumbled upon this video, which is a satirical representation of an actual community in Mississippi called “Turkey Creek.” Turkey Creek is a historic black town that was founded by freed slaves in 1866, and has been an impoverished community for their descendants ever since. The video presents Turkey Creek as located in a very racist state that contributes nothing to help improve the town’s horrible conditions. Once the town’s background is introduced, the narrator discusses how the only organization who has offered help to the people of Turkey Creek is the Audubon society, which is an organization that is interested in the conservation and preservation of the environment. As you will see in the video, a black newscaster interviews a white man who is a spokesperson for the Audubon society and dissects what is truly in the interest for the organization. Their primary interest in helping Turkey Creek improved its community is to preserve an area for the birds. This blatant disregard for the lives of the residents of Turkey Hill, with the sole motive to help the birds with the secondary effect of helping the people, is the premise for the video and a way to open up discussion among people who refuse to see racism, intentionally or unintentionally, and who think that our country, and in particular the south, has overcome racism since the abolishment of slavery. Throughout the video there is discussion with some residents, as well as with the spokesperson of the Audubon society, and it is clear that racism continues to run deeply and structurally, as seen by the way the black residents are expected to live and the priority they are refused by surrounding towns and organizations. I found it to be enlightening, yet disturbing; especially the part when the Audubon society spokesperson stated that after Hurricane Katrina the society came together to make hundreds of bird houses for the community’s birds (as opposed to helping the residents of Mississippi and Turkey Creek who could not afford such renewal).
My friend showed me the website, Dosomething.org, which is an action-based website that encourages people to learn about various issues in America and how people can affect change in those issues. Some of the issues include education, disaster response and relief, discrimination, HIV and sexuality, and other such problems. I was very interested in the area of the website dealing with discrimination and was delighted to find that it had an entire section for racial discrimination, of which it presented a headline of “The large majority of racially motivated hate crimes are against African Americans.” This section focuses on terms and facts people should know about discrimination, as well as the background of racism in America towards Blacks.There is a section for “learning” and a section entitled “Act now!” which presents readers with a number of ways they can get take action against this pressing and perpetuated issues if racism. Another section of the cite that I appreciate is that it has an entirely separate section of affirmative action, and it also presents ways of learning about the issue, as well as how people can take action towards raising awareness about the benefits (and needs) for affirmative action. I think this section, as well as the many other sections on the website, present interesting and comprehensive approaches towards conquering these issues. In particular, it makes racial issues, which might not be acknowledged effectively elsewhere, accessible to anyone. I suggest checking it out because it takes an optimistic standpoint about what we become so pessimistic about at the end of almost every one of our classes…”what can we actually do to change what seems so out of our control?” It presents concrete ways in which people can make a difference and shows that even small actions are significant.
In this youtube clip, Chris Rock talks about progress and racism in America. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z_L7qoP17-w
We have been addressing the many ways in which “racism is in the air,” as pointed out in one of our readings, “Beyond prejudice: Toward a Sociocultural Psychology and Oppression,” by Adams et al. I am interested in this conception of racism because it touches on a number of ways in which racism exists as a visible and invisible manifestation. Adams et al. discuss how racism is located “outside the architecture of the brain, in the socially constructed environments that provide the external scaffolding for individual subjectivity” (Adams et al., p. 223). I especially like these approaches because they encompass many of the things we have been discussing in class. First of all, the sociocultural perspective challenges many views that think of racism as functioning on only an individual level. Since individuals are part of a larger society, they are affected by the many social interactions and observations they constantly encounter. While many people may think that they think and act solely upon their own accord, they are part of a system that has powerful influences. Racism is something that most people attribute to being an individual occurrence; however, as we have read about and discussed in class, it is actually a social construction. This means that racism exists in the structure of our society through our institutions and social interactions. It affects how individuals think about racism, and therefore how we act in regards to race and racism. The “air” that Adams et al. presents is the information, associations, and understandings that we constantly breath in. This racism “air” has been building up for a very long time, which makes it very hard for us to determine it as wrong, or especially oppressive if we are the one’s benefiting from it.