After reading Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech and discussing it in class, there are two ideas presented in this speech that have been on my mind. First, Dr. King expressed that it is the social scientist’s responsibility to spread information to the misinformed whites of America. The second idea was a particular quote that Dr. King recited in his speech that really stood out to me. He quoted Victor Hugo saying, “If a soul is left in the darkness, sins will be committed. The guilty one is not he who commits the sin, but he who causes the darkness.” Martin Luther King used this quote symbolizing whites in society as the cause of the “darkness” (prejudice attitudes/ behaviors and discrimination-both on a personal and institutional level).
During our class this Thursday we briefly touched on the impact of both laws and public opinion on human behavior with particular concern to attitudes about racial issues. In Rebecca Kook’s (1998) article The Shifting Status of African Americans in the American Collective Identity, she traces the development of the African-American identity in America through landmark events in our history driven almost entirely by public opinion. As her article makes painfully obvious, most positive progress, unfortunately, has only come in the past 50-60 years. The preceding decades were marred with a series of terrible injustices that were condoned and perpetuated by an American society that was intolerant, ignorant, apathetic and for the most part overtly racist.
In this youtube clip, Chris Rock talks about progress and racism in America. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z_L7qoP17-w
Last week, I wrote about how the challenges of this class extend far beyond anything that can be explained on a syllabus, and this week I suppose is more of the same. However, what I’ve been struggling with this week, or rather the past couple of weeks, is the comment Jordan had heard and brought up in class. The specific comment, which I believe she said was made by a fellow student in another one of her classes was something along the lines of “All New Yorkers have the right to hate Arabs because of September eleventh.”
Acts of omission and collective ignorance creates the socio-cultural atmosphere in which racism thrives. In class, we discussed that “the system” is something that does not just happen out of nowhere. Reality isn’t just there; it is socially constructed. If the system is built, then in theory it should be able to be destroyed and rebuilt; however, I feel that the unity and cooperation amongst individuals that is required for such a transformation is nearly impossible. We have created a system based on values that the first settlers came with. The morals and values of today are much different than they were in the past and many conflict with the “system” that has been created. The American society values independence and works on a system of meritocracy; however, due to values and morals changing, and increasing, there are conflicting ideas about how “the system” should be and which system is more effective.