Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Takaki, Chapter 3: The "Giddy Multitude"

Takaki’s thesis in this chapter is “In 1611, when Shakespeare’s play was first performed, there were no African Calibans in Virginia. Indeed, the introduction of Africans was something that had not even been considered at the time. As it turned out, the presence of Africans in America did become a reality” (p.52). This statement is saying that Caliban from The Tempest closely reflects what happens in America, and the arrival of Africans as becoming the oppressed slaves within the country.

This chapter in Takaki’s book deeply describes that the representation of Caliban could very well be coincidentally linked with the representation of the Africans within America. The English view the Africans as a vile race, and people who would come off as brutish. Also, the English believed that they were all cannibals, and were “a people of beastly living, without a God, law, religion. Their color allegedly made them Devils incarnate” (p.52). Basically all of the degrading traits that a “monster” would have, Caliban had, and in retrospect, the Africans represented as well. The Africans, like Caliban, were also branded with the words “savage” and “deformed slave”. Though not all of the slave labor in the new settlement was black, but there were also English whites who were forced to enslavement as well. The whites who were gathered to be slaves in America were known as “surplus inhabitants” of England. Within this titled included convicts, “rogues, vagabonds, whores, cheats, and rabble of all descriptions, raked from the gutter, decoyed, deceived, seduced, inveigled, or forcibly kidnapped and carried as servants to the plantations” (p.54). Even though these English slaves were white, they were still shoved in the same class that the black Africans were: slave laborers, whose status dropped to them becoming treated as property. The white slaves typically got a lesser penalty than the black slaves whenever they tried to run away, even though both still receive pretty harsh punishments. Usually black slaves were forced into life of enslavement, while whites typically only had to work a few more extra years for the colony and the slave’s master. Another part of the play that became apparent in the new settlement was the combined rebellion force of the black and white slaves, known as “The Giddy Multitude”. This rebellion was defined as “a discontented class of indentured servants, slaves, and landless freemen, both white and black, the Stephanos and Trinculos as well as the Calibans of Virginia” (p.63). All of them ended up grabbing a hold of armory in order to stand their ground. Unfortunately, the rebellion did not last as long as the members have hoped. By force and deceit, “the rebels of the “giddy multitude” had been defeated, but they had fought in what historian Edmund Morgan called “the largest rebellion known in any American colony before the American Revolution”” (p.65). After this revolt was put down, the white slaves were lifted of their punishments, but the black slaves did not receive this luxury. By this time the government system decided that black slaves were the best way to go for slave labor, and their plan was to deliberately pit the white and black slaves against each other (p.67). In the end, Jefferson abolished slavery because of the chaos it caused within the population. Though even though the blacks were now freed, they were still treated quite differently, so much as they would have to be removed from American society (p.70).

Takaki’s argument in this chapter would be that Caliban once again had foreseen all of these events regarding race differences, slaves and oppression within the new settlement. With all the given evidence and links from both this chapter and the previous chapter, I would have to agree with his argument. In Shakespeare’s play, Caliban was seen as the monster out of the society, someone different from everyone else, someone who looked and seemed to act like any other brutish figure would, and lastly, someone that could be forced into slavery and be made to obey a master’s command. Just because Caliban was different than the rest, he was seen as a threat that needed to be controlled. If the name “Caliban” was removed from all of the above statements, and replaced with “Africans”, or even “Native Americans”, would still be accurate to how those groups of people were viewed in the American society during that time period.

Overall, I thought the chapter was a pretty decent read. I was not aware of the Giddy Multitude during this time period, and I found the combined rebellion of both the blacks and the whites very interesting. I also thought that how differently the white slaves and the black slaves were punished, even though they did the exact same crime and were supposedly viewed as “equal slave laborers” was quite appalling, even though I have read about events similar to this before. I still think the other articles we read in class are more attention keeping than Takaki’s chapters though, but otherwise it was a good read, and very informative about continuing the story of Caliban, and the relation to slavery and oppression within America during that time period.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Getting Off the Hook: Denial and Resistance

Johnson’s thesis for this article is “but the truth is that my silence, my inaction, and especially my passive acceptance of the everyday privilege that goes along with group membership are all it takes to make me just as much a part of the problem as any member or the Klan” (118).

This article describes how racism and sexism are still happening within our culture, though much less obvious than in the past. For example, every time someone says a racist joke, but ends it with an “I didn’t mean it”, they think that saying they did not mean it means that they didn’t say it at all, they’re not being racist, and that the person who was supposedly offended by the statement shouldn’t feel hurt at all. People in today’s society view their privileges as if that’s the normal way of life. There seems to be nothing wrong if someone acts in a sexist way, it was the fault of the one being discriminated against, as if they were asking for it. This lets the person who is being sexist become “off the hook” because it “wasn’t their fault” to begin with. There are different states that Johnson mentions that show how people get away with showing signs of being racist, sexist, or discriminatory in any way. These ways are to deny and minimize, blame the victim, call it something else, “it’s better this way”, it doesn’t count if you don’t mean it, “I’m one of the good ones”, being sick and tired of situations, and getting off the hook by getting on. Also, throughout the article it shows how these different discriminatory signs between the sexes and races have been dulled down in society and coming off as subtle and shouldn’t cause anyone any harm. One example that he uses is the documentary “True Colors”, which shows how two men who are the same in every single way, minus the fact that one is black and one is white, are treated differently in today’s society. They recorded what happened between the men in different situations, such as applying for a job, accidentally locking oneself out of the car, trying to rent an apartment, shopping for shoes, buying a car, and so on (p.119). The example that was featured in the article showed that when the white man entered a shoe store, he was instantly greeted by the white sales clerk, and was helped. Though after he left, and the black man entered just a few minutes later, he received no such greeting, or was not helped in any sort of way while browsing the store. This shows that even though those of the “privileged” part of society won’t say they’re racist, these subtle actions show that some parts of them are, otherwise they wouldn’t act in this sort of way.

In the article, Johnson states that “In effect, ‘I didn’t mean it’ often comes close to ‘I didn’t say it’ or ‘I didn’t do it,’ which of course isn’t true” (p.116). I agree with Johnson on this viewpoint, because it is very common to hear a joke or a phrase followed by an “I didn’t mean it” in the case that someone shows they were offended by the statement. With people saying “I didn’t mean it”, they automatically think that they didn’t say it, and they are off the hook from being discriminatory. This argument is valid because it is true in almost any situation that even has a hint of racism or sexism.

Overall I thought this article was interesting. The part I found that was most amusing was the section of the article where the men and women were arguing over the action of men opening doors for women. I personally just think that men opening doors for a woman is an act of chivalry, which is kind of rare to find nowadays. Women shouldn’t take it as an offense, and should just accept it. If anything women can do the same thing for men every now and then, and open some doors for them as an act of kindness. I don’t understand why people would be offended by that, and in relation to some argumentative statements that were included, women could always ask men for help in the home nowadays. Other than this, I thought how Johnson pointed out the different subtleness of discriminatory statements in today’s society was very interesting, and surprising enough, it’s true and apparent without even having to look for it.

What It All Has To Do With Us

Johnson’s thesis in this article is “To do something about the trouble surrounding privilege, power, and difference, we have to talk about it, but most of the time we don’t because it feels too risky. This is true for just about everyone, but especially for people with privilege” (p.76).

This article is about Individual and Social Systems, and how they change people’s behaviors according to the given situation. According to Johnson, “individualistic thinking also makes us blind to the very existence of privilege, because privilege, by definition, has nothing to do with individuals, only with the social categories we wind up in” (p.77). Basically, Johnson is saying that people who are in the privileged group tend to make generalizations about others, such as racism, sexism, and ableism. Those in that group who don’t agree with the others will not speak out, because the consequence of them following the “more resistant” path may attract attention to themselves and may in turn be ridiculed for thinking differently. Therefore, the “good people” who think against the popular belief within their own privileged group as opposed to others would rather smile, nod, and keep silent rather than speak up. This is taken in as an agreement by others in the privileged group. The individuals and the systems or groups they belong in are mutually linked. Given this, the personality or actions that a person is perceived in each situation may be different, even though that they are in fact the same person. Johnson’s example in the article about how he acquires a rather greedy personality while playing a Monopoly game verses his actual laid-back personality reflects this. Not only is this link visible in a simple Monopoly game, but it actually present within the social world. What we experience “as social life happens through a complex dynamic between systems- families, schools, workplaces, communities, entire societies- and the choices people make as they participate in them and help make them happen. How we experience the world and ourselves, our sense of other people, and the ongoing reality of the systems themselves all arise, take shape, and happen through this dynamic” (p.84).

Johnson states that “we are always participating in something larger than ourselves- what sociologist call social systems- and systems are not collections of people” (p.78). I agree with Johnson on this statement. Sociologically speaking, both the individual and the social system they are part of both have a direct affect on each other. Johnson presents an excellent example to explain this. “A university is a social system, and people participate in it. But the people aren’t the university, and the university isn’t the people. This means that to understand what happens in it, we have to look at both the university and how individual people participate in it” (p.78). Basically, the students and faculty are part of the university social system. Outside of the university, they are their own different individuals, with no specific role to follow. Though, when these types of people are gathered in a university setting, they begin to act in response to one another as a student would to a professor, and vice versa. These multiple roles people take are the same for any social system.

I think that this article was very informative in the sociological views of showing how some privileged thinking is related with the social systems, and that not everybody of a certain privileged group thinks alike. There are dominant thoughts that most people in that group would agree too, and others just follow along in order to avoid being targeted as going against the “normal” beliefs of a certain group. I also liked the monopoly example in order to relate different personality changes and how it is directly related to the circumstantial environment or setting. Overall, I thought that the article was interesting in explaining the individuals and systems, and how they are intertwined and affect each other depending on the situation.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Capitalism, Class, and the Matrix of Domination

Johnson’s thesis of this article is “capitalism played a major role in the development of white privilege and still plays a major role in its perpetuation” (p.41). Also, “we won’t get rid of racism, in other words, without doing something about sexism and classism, because the system that produces the one also produces the others and connects them” (p.53).

The argument in this article pertains to capitalism, and how it had a direct influence on the system in regards to privileges within the Americas, which are based on not only race, but social class and even sexual orientation. The economy is a major part of deciding how much wealth a person or company can bring in. Because economic systems “are the source of wealth, they are also the basis for every social institution, since the state and the church and universities and the like cannot survive without an economic base” (p.42). The purpose capitalism serves is to make a big profit on top of the cost of production of any goods and services. The ending result is acquiring more money than what the company started with. They way capitalism was run was that people work under their terms or the person has no job at all. Capitalism’s “direct connection to white racism has also operated in the acquisition of land and raw materials, which, like cheap labor, play a key role in the rapid growth of industry and wealth. To justify such direct forms of imperialism and oppression, whites developed the idea of whiteness to define a privileged social category elevated above everyone who wasn’t included in it” (p.46). Capitalist wanted to keep the wages they paid their workers low, and to keep the productivity high so they could receive a greater profit. In order to keep the whites from revolting in wanted a raise; they used those of other races who will work for the same rate, causing hostility and competition between the races. The result of this is that “white racism actually hurts white workers by strengthening the position of capitalists at white workers’ expense” (p.48). Another part of capitalist influence is the matrix of domination. The matrix shows that the different factors of privilege and unprivileged people directly correlate to one another. For example, a white male may have precedence over a black male, yet a white male who is homosexual would be less privileged than a heterosexual white male. So in one category being white has advantages, but having another characteristic that is oppressed would lower ones standing in society in regards to privilege.

I agree with Johnson’s argument that capitalism has a direct link to the causing racism in the Americas, but it is not the only source. Because of the constant need for workers willing to work low wages for capitalist companies to prosper and bring in a huge profit, using race to keep the lower class white workers from revolting against the low wages was a smart move for that time period. Also, the creation of the “matrix domination” showed how different people due to class, race, and sexual orientation were ranked in society. Those who were a white female and homosexual would probably be in the same ranking as a black male who was heterosexual. The living standards due to these different privileges and unprivileged classifications were influenced by capitalism, along with the race, class, and sexist standings.

I thought that this article proved an interesting connection between capitalism and the social standings within the Americas. Before this article I don’t think I would have been able to make the connection, given that history is not exactly my strong point. Johnson does a very thorough job at explaining his argument, and had many valid points about the tie between the two. I also found the explanation of the matrix of domination very interesting. Though overall, this article did not really hold my attention as well as the previous articles we have read.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Privilege, Oppression, and Difference

Allan G. Johnson’s thesis of this article is that the real illusion connected to difference is the popular assumption that people are naturally afraid of what they don’t know or understand. This supposedly makes it inevitable that you’ll fear and distrust people who aren’t like you and, in spite of your good intentions; you’ll find it all but impossible to get along with them (p.13).

Johnson’s article states that it is the perception of how people view one another that causes the difference in privileges between people, not the races. If we feel afraid, it isn’t what we don’t know that frightens us, it’s what we think we do know (p.13). Though this is not always the case, i.e., when the Native Americans when the first settlers came upon American soil. People who are not part of one’s own group are viewed as different, partially because they are afraid of those different than themselves. The idea that “everyone is naturally frightened by difference is a cultural myth that, more than anything, justifies keeping outsiders on the outside and treating them badly if they happen to get in” (p.13). The Native Americans first welcomed the New England settlers with open arms. But in return the New Englanders became dominant over the Native Americans, because the purely “think” that they are more superior to these people, and should be treated as such, despite their generous hospitalities. Also, people are made up of various different qualities that may be more or less easy to judge just by a first glance. The diversity wheel is made up of six social characteristics: age, race, ethnicity, gender, physical ability and qualities (left/right-handedness, height, and so on), and sexual orientation. Around the outer ring are others, including religion, marital and parental status, and social-class indicators such as education, occupation, and income (p.14). These qualities are not easy to decipher when just glancing at a person walking out on the street. Sure, one can define some characteristics such as gender and race easily, but to completely define someone requires actually getting to know the person. Johnson also says that if one wakes up one day and suddenly changed gender, race, or anything within the inner part of the diversity wheel, the way others perceive that person is most likely to change. For most people “shifting only a few parts of the diversity wheel would be enough to change their lives dramatically” (p.15). The specs outside of the wheel don’t dramatically alter the perception from others as much as the ones on the inner wheel, because unlike the outer portion of the wheel, the inner portion consists of characteristics that, one way or another, we must learn to live with regardless of how we choose to reveal ourselves to others (p.16).

Johnson states in his article that a late African American novelist James Baldwin believes that there is no such thing as whiteness or, for that matter, blackness or, more generally, race. “No one is white before he/she came to America. It took generations, and a vast amount of coercion, before this became a white country” (Baldwin). I agree with this statement, that it seems that America is one of the only places that set labels to people based on their skin color and race. For example, in Africa, and African female would be considered an African, and a woman. Though in America, she would gain the title of “black”, so she would be considered a black woman, and be perceived and how a black woman would be in America. Overall, labeling someone “black” or “white” should not count when identifying someone due to certain specs of one self. These colors are not on the diversity wheel Johnson offers as well, so therefore color classification should not exist. Unfortunately, since the time of the New England settlers, these colors have been integrated in the America’s culture with respect to classifying people based on their outside looks.

Overall, I enjoyed reading this article. I thought that the diversity wheel and the different spec about people and the various characteristics that can define a person’s unique structure. I also found it interesting about the different privileges he listed that some people have over others just because they are a certain type in the inner section of the diversity wheel, such as being a heterosexual, and a male. Johnson also does a very good job explaining about the cultural creation of how we perceive others and the social construction within our society. I found this article very informative about the diversity factors within our country.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Race: The Power of the Illusion: The Difference Between Us

Because of our history of moving, mating, and mixing most human variation, especially of older complex traits, can be found within any population, most of it from a common source in Africa.

The video’s argument was about race is not biological. Over all of the research that scientists have made about each of the different races, there is absolutely no evidence that shows a certain race contains something different than any other race biologically on the inside. The only differences between races are what can be seen on the outside. For example, the physique of a Caucasian or an African American’s facial features would have slight differences in comparison to someone of Indian or Asian descent. Though the differences are very subtle and there is no certain characteristic that is unique to any race’s facial features, along with any other parts of the human body. Genetically, there are no differences that are exclusive to any type of race. Every single human of every race has a genetic makeup unique to only themselves, and being genetically similar to anyone of the same race is just a mere coincidence. People of a particular race could have a closer DNA gene to a person of a separate race as opposed to one of their own. There is no way to tell what race a person is solely based on their genetics. This was proven in the classroom example which was shown periodically throughout the video.

What are the consequences of the conclusion that the only way the word race can be used is to tell the difference between outward appearances? Well, even though that this statement is true; unfortunately there is still slight racism throughout the world. Certain races are looked down upon by others because they may feel “superior”, or think that a different race is “inferior” to them because they appear to be the weaker group of humans. This discovery also points out how entirely wrong the early settlers in the Americas were when classifying the different races as being better or worse than the other. Externally, yes there are differences, though not enough to say that different races are superior or inferior to one another. Melanin is the reason for the color differences, and depending on where one originated from, the melanin in people’s skin adjusts accordingly in order to protect one from being harmed by the sunlight. Since melanin really one of the only subtle features that can tell people of different races apart, once again there really is no difference between one human from the next in ranks or skill level. Every human is built biologically the same way.

Overall, I found the video very informative, and I learned quite a few new things as well. Proving that the genetics within a person is as random within a particular race as it is with anyone else in the entire world. There is no specific gene or anything biological that can set races apart. I also thought the author of the video displayed his argument very well, along with very strong proofs and examples. The classroom example with having each person guess who else they are probably more similar to, and showing the ending results was very creative. This evidence also proves that any racism against others dealing with certain superior versus inferior complexes are null and void of ever being correct, because in the end there are no real differences that state who is within the better race. Though unfortunately at the fault of the settlers, we today are still paying for what they started with racism in the past. Even though the amount of racism has significantly decreased within the past few hundred years, there are some views and phrases that are still around that come off as becoming racist.