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).
In our last class, we went over a speech President Obama had made in 2008. One of the things he said really stuck out to me.
“ For the African-American community, that path means embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past. It means continuing to insist on a full measure of justice in every aspect of American life. But it also means binding out particular grievances – for better health care, and better schools, and better jobs – to the larger aspirations of all Americans.”
I have been thinking a lot about the Tatum article and how only white people can be racist. I had never previously thought about racism as being separate from prejudice, but separating the two has made me understand my own feelings on these issues better. I hate that there is racism in the world but defining it as only something whites can have towards another group actually made me feel better. With this definition (or at least my understanding of it) racism does not have to mean I am anti other races, it means that I was born with certain … Read more
A group of students last year did their final project on the sentencing rules regarding crack cocaine versus powder cocaine. Essentially the rule said that, to get the same prison terms, powder cocaine offenders (who are typically White and sometimes affluent) needed to have 100 times more cocaine in their possession than crack offenders (who are typically Black). Here is a news story from the L.A. Times about changes to that 100 to 1 rule.
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).