White Bound: Nationalists, Antiracists, and the Shared Meanings of Race

I attended a lecture called “White Bound: Nationalists, Antiracists, and the Shared Meanings of Race”. The lecturer was Matthew W. Hughey, a sociologist, and associate professor at the University of Connecticut. His research has led him to write several books and main focus is on studying whiteness. As a white male, I dislike attending these lectures due to the fact that I’m ostracized and put into categories like Hughey provided. Hughey literally hand-picked samples from his months of research to examine how a white nationalist group and a white antiracist group have a lot more similarities than what meet the eye. He also provides 3-4 categories that he put white people into that eventually the outcome is different forms of racism. I understand that this was just a lecture as well as a brief summary of his research, but his arrogant attitude leads to the conclusion white people are all racist indefinitely. I just was curious since he is white, what category did he fall into? Oh wait, when asked that question he twisted it and never really answered it but gave excuses like the white antiracist group did. So, was he racist?

This lecture pertains to the class in the following ways: learning about groups from different sides of the spectrum within the white community and their attitudes towards people of color. The class has talked about at certain points of white people’s role in the movement, and this lecture gave certain insight of possible views certain groups had.

Education and the Civil Rights Movement

Throughout all the essays we have read in class there is one thing that almost always comes to my mind and that is how our education system teaches the Civil Rights Movement versus what really happened in the movement. In my experiences, the Civil Rights movement was something that was always brought up at least once a year in a history class throughout middle school and high school. Despite the movement being discussed many times, the way it is discussed is very different than what we have learned in this class and from the essays we have read. Many people have the perception that the movement was solely about racism and that the movement ended quickly. I believe they have this idea because of the way the movement is taught in schools. These topics obviously have been discussed frequently throughout class so we know these things are not true but in my opinion, the civil rights movement is something that everyone should have an in-depth knowledge of and is something that needs to be focused on more at the middle and high school levels.

In my experience, discussing the movement at the high school level was just simply going over the major names involved with the movement like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King. Up until this class I had very little knowledge about the movement at a local level because we only focused on the major names. I also didn’t realize how much more the movement was about then just racism. After just being in this class for a few weeks it became apparent to me that the education system had kind of “failed me” in a way. I didn’t know this information because it was never taught. In order for people to have a better understanding of the movement and a better appreciation for it, we need to change the way the movement is taught in our schools. Instead of talking about the big names, schools should focus on the local movement and what all the movement was actually fighting for.

I can’t help but wonder, especially after today’s discussion about if reading more essays like The Long Civil Rights Movement and the Political Uses of the Past would have affected the election, how differently recent events would have unfolded if our students were taught the Civil Rights movement in a more in-depth way.

 

 

A Painting of Black Issue by a White Woman

I went to Dana Schutz’s exhibition at Cleveland Museum of Art in the late January and attended the interview of Dana Schutz by Nell Painter, who is a historian and a painter. The issue they specifically discussed was associated with a particular painting, Open Casket (2016), which depicts a disfigured Emmett Till lying in the casket. Historically speaking, Emmett Till was lynched after a white woman insisted that she was offended by Till. In the conversion between Painter and Schutz and in tandem with various articles that discuss this issue, I have to acknowledge and be aware of the fundamental tension that lies in the core of the racial problem.

The problems of this painting that generate a monolithic dissent to it mainly reside in two aspects: a white woman paints a black issue, and the portrayal of a black man is abstract. Various activists went to the show and called the work to be removed, or even destroyed. Among them, Hannah Black wrote a letter to the museum, in which she argues that the painting is evidence of white insensitivity; that “a painting of a dead Black boy by a white artist” cannot correctly represent white shame.

In my eyes, Hannah Black relies on the wrong notions of cultural property and generalizes the meaning of the work to cultural producers and consumers on the basis of race. This issue came back to me again when I read the interview with Judy Richardson, conducted by Emilye Crosby, during which Richardson discusses the dilemma of white women trying to get involved in the civil rights movement. Here again, the fact of Dana Schutz, a white woman, trying to demonstrate the brutal reality that happened to a black man becomes paradoxical.

In brief, the attempt by a white female cultural producer to represent racial issue through the expression of black pain should not be viewed as malicious. Instead, the effort of achieving racial equity and reciprocal comprehension by any people should be recognized not by their gender or race, but by their intentions.

“The Dream Act Today: The Immigration Policy Battle from the Front-lines” Panel

Today I attended a panel about fighting for the Dream Act directly after class.  With the Civil Rights Movement fresh on my mind, I easily drew parallels between the Dreamers fighting for legitimization and the activists of the Civil Rights Movement. There were three speakers: a political science professor, Angela Kelley (a DACA advocate in D.C), and a Dreamer student. The student spoke about how he had sixteen days before his documents expired. He has sixteen days before he can no longer work, receive federal benefits, or be considered a citizen of the United States. He also told the chilling story about his uncle, who had been arrested by two agents. They had knocked on his door, and, without identifying themselves and wearing normal street clothes, asked if he could help them with a flat tire. The uncle agreed and even offered his own tools and tire to help. As soon as they stepped off his property, they handcuffed him, and no one in the student’s family has heard from him since then.

Angela Kelley spoke about how many people are fighting and many people want to protect undocumented immigrants and those protected by DACA, but she seemed pessimistic that anything positive would happen soon. She mentioned law enforcement, and that calling the police is an option only when there aren’t attacks coming from the police onto the community. The fear of law enforcement reminded me of what we’ve studied from the Civil Rights Movement. The police are supposed to be a force that makes a person feel safe, but these people fear them because the police have immense power over their lives in a way that the police don’t have over whites or traditional citizens. Instead, law enforcement officials needlessly bully the people they are supposed to protect. Maybe to them, the undocumented citizens today (and similarly, African Americans during the Civil Rights Movement) are not seen as equal, legitimate citizens, and so aren’t deserving of the protection of the law.

The student also spoke about how he is merely a number to the government. They don’t care about his name or his dream to have a career so that he can retire his parents. He is merely a number, signifying that he was an undocumented child brought into the US. Nothing more. This is similar to the Civil Rights Movement in that black men and women were treated as objects. To the oppressors, they weren’t really people. And so they were not treated as such. Activists in both movements were not and are not fighting just for a piece of legislation to pass. They are simply fighting or have fought for their rights to be viewed as human beings in a system that has denied them that basic respect.

The Drum Major Instinct

The Drum Major Instinct by Simon Balto

“I recognize that my criticism of Dodge here is not an especially hot take. The ad was skewered on Twitter immediately after it aired, and the blowback has been the subject of numerous news stories today. It turns out that, no matter how low we’ve sunk in 2018, coopting the words of one of the greatest freedom fighters in American history in order to sell trucks still strikes a lot of people as wrong.

It’s nevertheless worth noting the unique stupidity of Dodge’s choice of King speech, though. Entitled “The Drum Major Instinct,” this particular speech finds King exploring people’s materialist impulses, with “the drum major instinct” being human beings’ innate desire to be noticed and recognized. For King, who by this point in time had become fiercely critical of capitalism, this tendency toward conceit and self-regard was dangerous, and particularly so in contemporary America as everyone labored to stay one step ahead of their neighbors and sometimes ruined themselves in the process:

But now the problem is, it is the drum major instinct. And you know, you see people over and over again with the drum major instinct taking them over. And they just live their lives trying to outdo the Joneses. (Amen) They got to get this coat because this particular coat is a little better and a little better-looking than Mary’s coat. And I got to drive this car because it’s something about this car that makes my car a little better than my neighbor’s car. (Amen) I know a man who used to live in a thirty-five-thousand-dollar house. And other people started building thirty-five-thousand-dollar houses, so he built a seventy-five-thousand-dollar house. And then somebody else built a seventy-five-thousand-dollar house, and he built a hundred-thousand-dollar house. And I don’t know where he’s going to end up if he’s going to live his life trying to keep up with the Joneses.”

Martin Luther King, Dodge, and Capitalism

Patrick D. Jones, Associate Professor of History and Ethnic Studies and author of The Selma of the North: Civil Rights Insurgency in Milwaukee (Harvard University press, 2009). Here are some comments from Prof. Jones on Dodge commercial during the Super Bowl, as well as the full sermon from which the King’s words were taken. Here, too, is an article from Slate that speaks to King’s estate support of the ad.

By Patrick D. Jones:

The Ram Truck ad featuring an excerpt from MLK’s “Drum Major Instinct” speech is more crass than you may have originally realized. In the original speech, Dr. King discusses the impulse we all have “to be important, to surpass others, to achieve distinction, to lead the parade.” It leads us “to be joiners” and “explains why we are so often taken by advertisers. You know, those gentlemen of massive verbal persuasion. And they have a way of saying things to you that kind of gets you into buying. In order to be a man of distinction, you must drink this whiskey. In order to make your neighbors envious, you must DRIVE THIS TYPE OF CARE. (Make it plain) In order to be lovely to love you must wear this kind of lipstick or this kind of perfume. And you know, before you know it, you’re just buying that stuff. (Yes) That’s the way the advertisers do it”…

… “It often causes us to live above our means. (Make it plain) It’s nothing but the drum major instinct. Do you ever see people buy cars that they can’t even begin to buy in terms of their income? (Amen) [laughter] You’ve seen people riding around in Cadillacs and Chryslers who don’t earn enough to have a good T-Model Ford. (Make it plain) But it feeds a repressed ego.

“You know, economists tell us that your AUTOMOBILE should not cost more than half of your annual income. So if you make an income of five thousand dollars, your CAR shouldn’t cost more than about twenty-five hundred. That’s just good economics. And if it’s a family of two, and both members of the family make ten thousand dollars, they would have to make out with one CAR. That would be good economics, although it’s often inconvenient. But so often, haven’t you seen people making five thousand dollars a year and driving a CAR that costs six thousand? And they wonder why their ends never meet. [laughter] That’s a fact.”

… “And you know, you see people over and over again with the drum major instinct taking them over. And they just live their lives trying to outdo the Joneses. (Amen) They got to get this coat because this particular coat is a little better and a little better-looking than Mary’s coat. And I got to drive this CAR because it’s something about this car that makes my CAR a little better than my neighbor’s CAR. (Amen) I know a man who used to live in a thirty-five-thousand-dollar house. And other people started building thirty-five-thousand-dollar houses, so he built a seventy-five-thousand-dollar house. And then somebody else built a seventy-five-thousand-dollar house, and he built a hundred-thousand-dollar house. And I don’t know where he’s going to end up if he’s going to live his life trying to keep up with the Joneses.”

King goes on to discuss the way this instinct is “destructive,” “causes us to lie” and “distorts our personalities,” leads to “snobbish exclusivism” and “classicism,” to those who have things to think they are “a little better than that person who doesn’t have it.” He goes on to also say it leads to “blindness and prejudice,” particularly “race prejudice,” the “false feeling” among working-class whites that because they have certain things that they are “superior” because their “skin is white.”

To King, this is why we, as a society are “drifting.” He spends the remainder of the talk arguing for a redefinition of the “drum major instinct,” to point it away from such base, surface, materialistic and selfish ends and towards broader and deeper spiritual and social ends of love and justice.

So, the transgression is much worse than the initial outrage.

Martin Luther King, Jr., “The Drum Major Instinct” February 4, 1968

 

 

DACA Perfromance

Adam Clark

This performance that I went to was about the issues with DACA and how it affects immigrants that have come to this country illegally or have work permits but can not renew them because of the new executive orders. During this performance we learn about a true personal story about a man named Alex Alpharaoh. He was brought to this country illegally when he was three months old by his mother who was trying to come to America to reunite with her husband. He goes through his life being know as an illegal immigrant and not being able to have the basic things that Americans have like library card, drivers license, or a job. He talks about how people would make fun of him and the threat of the government finding him and deporting him. He goes into how he tried to get legal papers by going back to his home country and then coming into America legally. Which he was able to come back in the right way. He could not become a true U.S. citizen because the forms his mother filled out years ago trying to get him citizenship had expired. He now goes from place to place telling his story to others to try and make change happen. I feel that change does need to happen to a certain extent. In the case of Alex, yes he should be granted citizenship and not be deported back to his country because he was brought her by his mother and was not given the choice to stay in his home country. People like him should be given the opportunity to earn citizenship. Now there are cases were people came here by their own choice which should be deported immediately. I feel this because they did not come to America the right way and they should not be allowed to become a citizen because of this.

Overall I learned that there is a problem with the way we deal with immigrants and we need to find a way to change the way the system is soon. Because we are deporting many people who were not given the choice to leave their country and the U.S. is the only country that they know and they feel like America is home to them.