This Is America

Childism Gambino is out with a new song, and he’s confronting as many forms of racism as he can in the 4:04 video. Wearing Confederate army pants and opening the rap standing in the caricatured “original Jim Crow” pose, the video is rife with symbolism. Mainly centered on gun violence, many scenes feature powerful weaponry mowing down innocent backup dancers while others film from their phones.

The scary reality of being Black in America is tackled with eviscerating detail. Guns, police, and the mythical white horse – the symbolism is debated if the rider is a savior or death – are all parts of the experience that Donald Glover highlights. To be sure, the message and motifs of the piece are associate with fear, but offsetting everything is dancing. I interpreted this as the uncertainty African Americans face in everyday life, never knowing if something fun would become violent.

A poignant piece, “This is America” is a new song decrying the injustices of modern oppression, and is a meaningful contribution to art of the resistance.

School to Prison Pipeline Painting

Story image for race from

The local news station in Grand Rapids, MI was informed about a painting depicting a classroom full of children – and the black kids were painted wearing prison jumpsuits. Artist Rosie Lee said the piece was inspired by an article in New York Magazine about how New York schools divided kids by race to have conversations about identity, but townsperson Cory Ward expressed distaste. Ward says that the painting, displayed without context, is potentially damaging. Lee refused to write an explanation, claiming he wants dialogue to occur but accusations of privilege discourage people from having those conversations.

This article was intriguing for several reasons, the most prominent being the artist’s refusal to explain his work. I agree with Ward that context in important for people to have productive conversations about race, because this helps avoid misconceptions. Similar to discourse about the historical value of confederate statues, I believe that the correct place for them is somewhere people can go to learn about the horrors of the Civil War and not just have art that glorifies the ‘heroes.’ Lee’s refusal appears to be an admittance that he didn’t fully consider the implications of the piece when creating it. He claims he wants productive dialogue. How does he want dialogue on the topic of the painting – the school to prison pipeline – if he doesn’t tell the audience of the piece what his intentions were behind painting it?

I think the article raises questions of how to encourage dialogue when art is created.

A Remedy to Exclusionst Tech Operations

The New York Times published a piece yesterday about the lack of diversity in tech companies, with especially few positions of leadership available for Black and Latino employees. In the companies surveyed, only 1%-2% of employees were Black. The Congressional Black Caucus visited Silicon Valley to find out more. Barbara Lee, D-CA, noted “prosperity [of the tech industry] has not reached Black residents in the Bay Area,” and that the institutions of the area should be required to support the community they operate in. The Congressional Black Caucus hope to introduce legislation that would give more power to the Community Reinvestment Act, which would require tech companies to fund programs that reach out to the surrounding residents.

The Community Reinvestment Act of 1977 needs to be updated to reflect the changing conditions of society.  Originally enacted to mandate financial institutions to support the “credit needs” of the community, it has been moderately successful. By expanding the Act to include tech companies, the achievements of the Act can be modernized and continue to grow and be relevant.

Outreach programs such as the ones outlined by the Act will give California residents an opportunity to influence tech companies. Through diversity and internship programs, Black residents will be able to land positions within majority white companies. However, the legislation introduced by thr Congressional Black Caucus is vital. Without it, tech companies can continue the policies they have now, which exclude people of color from their organizations. To remedy this, there must be a concerted effort for change, and the Community Reinvestment Act is the ideal starting point.

Black Tax and Discrimination In the Housing Market

Black Americans face a difficult predicament. There has been a recent decline of Black  homeownership. From its peak of 49.1 percent in 2004, it fell to 44.9 percent in  2011 (compared to 46.9 percent for Latinos; nearly 59 percent for Asian  Americans; and more than 74 percent for Whites), according to,  a research project of Brandeis University’s Institute for Child, Youth and  Family Policy. The Black Tax is the greater economic and social cost that society’s ingrained racism forces, black americans to endure. Often the price many Blacks had to pay for home loans was unjustifiably steep. During the last decade study after  study has shown that Black homebuyers were basically forced to accept subprime mortgages far more often than whites if they wished to purchase a house. Those  mortgages, would have higher interest rates and other costs than  conventional, prime mortgages, are used for buyers with substandard credit  ratings. Banks and mortgage  lending institutions forced these loans upon black buyers. These loans contained higher fees for the lender. Even if the black prospective home buyers qualified for  conventional mortgages. The study the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)  used White, Black, Latino, and  Asian-American testers who had the exact same financial credentials found that  subtle discrimination in the housing market remains widespread. “Housing Discrimination Against Racial and Ethnic Minorities  2012,”  Discusses realtors  not showing buyers of color the full  arrange of of homes available  in their price range. But  showing them neighborhoods or  streets with predominantly minority populations, and not offering them financial assistance.


I came across an article the other day about a University of Cape Town (UCT) african american Professor named Elelwani Ramugondo. She has worked at UCT since 1998. She is taking the university to court for hiring a “less qualified” white profesor as their new deputy vice-chancellor for teaching and learning. Ramugondo is supported by the  university’s Black Academic Caucus (BAC), which claims the institution disregarded all rules when appointing Professor Lis Lange who is white. Ramugondo told City Press on Friday she was overlooked because of institutional racism at UCT.   “I know many casualties to UCT’s institutional racism. I have chosen to stay because I believe that if we confront the problem honestly at UCT, which is a public university that is held in very high regard, it will bode well for all South Africans.”

I found this article particularly interesting due to some of the discussions we had in class. This article demonstrates how racism can still be found in modern institutions. It will be interesting to see what the court finds on whether the racial claims are true. Also if found true what punishment will be forced upon the university and the committee that demonstrated the racism.


A Vietnamese Perspective of the Black Freedom Movement

Before registering for this class, I did not know what the Civil Rights Movement was. My initial choice for the History 201 class was the Holocaust, but for some reason that course was taken off. There were three other options: History of the News, Body in Chinese Traditions, and American Conservatism, but I ended up with this one for one main reason: it was unfamiliar.

I first learned about the Civil Rights Movement through my SAT writing crash course, where we covered potential examples for the essay. The course was taught by an American professor. Guess who we covered? Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks. I think that that is the most any typical Vietnamese student would know about the Black Freedom Movement. I was by no means a well-versed person, but compared to my Vietnamese friends, I would say that I did take a particular interest in history and global affairs. I had also been learning English ever since I was 6 and was quite exposed to American popular culture (since I was going to study abroad here anyway). Therefore, I think it is fair to say that my knowledge of the CRM was quite representative of, or even broader than other Vietnamese of my age and background. Yes, that is how ignorant we are. And any exposure to this subject in Vietnam, I suspect, would be through the traditional framework of the classical phase. I readUncle Tom’s Cabin back when I was in middle school, and watched 12 Years a Slave, Django Unchained, and Lincolnin high school. They were all set during the 19th century period, and even today, I still cannot name one popular movie of the CRM period.

So what is the problem? When I started writing this, I had to actually call my mom and had her go through my old history textbooks to see how Vietnam’s education covers America of the period. There were two lessons on the United States post 1945. One line of the text was dedicated to the CRM. This really puzzled me. Could it be because we are Communist? Possibly. But we know that there was some intersection between communism and the Civil Rights Movement, and along with the CRM, the Vietnam War was another highlight in the 1960s period of American history. Why wasn’t there more on the topic?

I talked to a fellow Vietnamese Wooster friend about what she knew about the CRM. She said Nelson Mandela. I was not surprised. In one of our English textbooks, there was a reading on Nelson Mandela and his anti-apartheid activism in South Africa. Of course, he was not American, nor was he in any way related to the CRM. But we learned a lot about him, and that was all we knew, and what many of us still associated with the CRM.

In Vietnam, there is only one centralized education system. Textbooks are written by the Ministry of Education, and all public schools follow the same framework for all the subjects. What we learn (or not) has been carefully selected (and censored) by the government. The popular representation of the Black Freedom Movement, or rather my perception of it, deals largely with the earlier period of the 19thcentury rather than the 1950s and 1960s movement. Before this class, I essentially knew nothing. I still know nothing now, but that is what I love about doing History here in the States. It takes you a course like this for you to finally know that you can actually be that ignorant.

The Summer That Changed Detroit

The Summer That Changed Detroit

Starting with a black and white photo that captures a white police officer powerfully holding his gun and waiting to take an action, this article focuses on the 1967 unrest in Detroit. The vignette that it begins with is particularly interesting. This riot is told by the narrative of Loretta Holmes, who was attending an unlicensed after-hours club, knows as “blind pig.” In the middle of the club, white police officers came in and arrested all the black partygoers. Right after this arrest, this place started a riot, which became a tipping point of the police brutality in Detroit.

Fifty years have passed by; however, what does the history of Detroit unrest mean to today’s residents? It is not surprising to see the discrepancy among different residents. Different perspectives can be categorized into two parts: urban and suburban residents as well as black and white residents. In the first category, it is very clear to see the unequal distribution of resources between the cities and suburbs. Most revitalizations happened in the cities, whereas the outer neighborhoods underwent a much slower change. As a result, the urban residents viewed the 1967 unrest as effective and optimistically celebrated the change that the history had mediated. On the contrary, suburban residents deemed the city and society had a long way to go. Similarly, in the category of black and white Detroiters, black residents, just as the suburban ones, viewed this history as a reminder of what society should accomplish still, whereas whites’ reflections on the riot in general only highlighted how much better things had become.  On account of such ground approach, this article successfully presents the nuances on the ground level in the north and the racial complexities underneath the surface.

To me, the different perspectives by the residents display a very interesting phenomenon: the majority of black Detroiters focused on the brutalities, such as shootings and deaths, of the past years, while most whites only saw the big progression that the community in Detroit had accomplished. The completely opposite views of societal development demonstrate the fundamental racial tension in the north system. Without such nuanced examples of the ground voices, it would be easy to deduce that the good relations between black and white in the north perpetuate.

The Wrongful Accusation of Emmett Till and Its Legacy

Recently, there are a lot of articles that talk about or relate to the case of Emmett Till, who was lynched and disfigured after being accused of flirting with a white woman. In the article, “Simeon Wright, Witness to Abduction of Emmett Till, Dies at 74,” Wright’s memoir of Till gives a primary source to the truth of such history. As other previous historians, most articles were trying to correct and justify the wrongful accusation, and amplify the degree of racial discrimination in the U.S. However, what I think is more important is not the defense or clarification of such unjust result, but the fact that, the white women, Carolyn Bryant Donham, who confessed that her allegation of Till’s sexual assault to her was not true.

This makes me wonder what makes Donham decide to tell the truth? Why did it take this long time for her to confess that her allegation was wrong? Does the change of her testimony justify that our society has achieved some liberal goals so that a white segregationist could recognize her fault? What if Emmett Till did not die, but put into a prison, would she still tell the truth? I think what is so valuable about her confession is not only reinforcing the accusation was wrong, but also providing evidence to the white audience that an innocent boy was killed because of their discrimination. It provides a space for the white population to ponder what had happened in the history very frankly and nakedly.

However, Donham’s claim not only gives a window for today’s society to judge the racial morality of the past, but also provides an example of a false accusation that killed an innocent person. In a more recent case, Bill Cosby was convicted of sexually assaulting a woman, Andrea Constand, at his home 14 years ago. Interestingly, his publicist compared his conviction to the plight of Emmett Till claiming that this is a “public lynching.” Such connection to the case of Till, to me, really gives me a new thought to today’s testimony. Since when are all people honest? The usage of history by the publicist, in this case, is really effective. History is a living entity. What we learn from it can be applied greatly in our daily lives.


Black Lives Matter Can’t Be Sued

Black Lives Matter Can’t Be Sued, Judge Tells Police Officer

This short article simply reports that a police officer brought a lawsuit against Black Lives Matter because of the injuries that the police sustained while responding to protests. Chief Judge Brian Jackson said that Black Lives Matter is a social movement, so it cannot be sued. First of all, it is very obvious to see the change that today’s society has accomplished. The social justice rules the case in a very liberal manner. What the judge said was that an individual can sue against an individual, but not a social movement. However, this makes me wonder was there any case in the history that a particular party was accused because of an individual?

If we shift gears to the black community, we can easily sense the strong activism that lies in the Black Lives Matter. However, such report again can make people easily correlate violence with black power. Such accusation against the party makes me wonder the accuracy of the lawsuit. This article says that the police officer was anonymous. Is he a white or a black American? Were the injuries that he received caused by Black Lives Matter or someone else?  Even though it is obvious to see the judge’s decision is based on the nature of laws: an individual cannot sue against a social movement, the racial tension is still present. What if this is a white party? Would the white party be sued also?

On the other hand, the voice from police officers is very intriguing. In society, we often focus on the goal and accomplishment of the movement. If the police were injured during the protest, what could they do? It is almost impossible to spot an individual who hurt the police officer and sue against this person during a protest. This article amplifies the judicial decision and makes the judicial legislation seem impartial. However, it is still contentious to celebrate the decision that is in favor of Black Lives Matter or a social movement, because the voice of police officers is sidelined and the racial tension is still fundamental. This article might again reinforce the cliche that black power is associated with violence.



Writing the Introduction

In historical writing, the introduction of an essay, article, or book operates as the roadmap for the work. It’s tells the reader exactly what the goal, objective, or argument of the work is, lays out its periodization, and it’s major themes.

Adina Back’s introduction in “Exposing the ‘Whole Myth” of Segregation,” she opens with a vignette, which she analyzes and then connect her analysis to the major argument and themes of her essay. Thereafter, she frames her essay within the context of what others have written and proceeds to develop what she will do in the essay.