Sunday, November 12, 2017

The War of the Racists



     So I quit my job. Yeah, I'm a little short on money now but at least I'm not totally failing all my classes! And, I have more(ish) time to read. It wasn't really a huge deal in all honesty, I knew I was going to quit sooner or later in the school year. I love money (who doesn't?)  so it was tough to let go, but the stress was killing me. Now, in addition to the 80 minutes of reading we get in school, I'm reading 30 to 40 minutes outside of school- because, if I'm being real, most of my time is still spent pulling my hair out trying to teach myself Pre-Cal. But, in addition to my extra reading time, I started reading 2 books at the same time! This may not be a big deal to most people, but I have always been the type of person to only read one book at a time. The idea of reading 2+ books simultaneously was frightening to me- I couldn't imagine how people could do it. I can barely finish one book, how the hell am I supposed to finish two? But, I gave it a shot and started Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell along with Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X Kendi. So far, it's going really well. Better than I expected actually. I'm around 40 pages in Outliers and 200 pages in Stamped from the Beginning. And, get this, neither of them are fiction books! Outliers is a nonfiction book about success, while Stamped from the Beginning is the historical non-fiction book I chose to read. Because these are non-fiction books, I will admit they're taking me a little longer to read. But, as I'm getting deeper into the books I find myself enjoying them as much, if not more, than fiction books because I feel like I'm actually learning things and expanding my knowledge, which I did feel while reading fiction books, but not as much. Also, another reason these books are taking me a little longer, is something I can thank APUSH and APLANG for. Before when I used to read, I used to to breeze through books. First, obviously, because they weren't as complex, but mostly because I wouldn't stop and really think about what I read. As long as I got the gist of what the author was saying, I would go right along. Now though, I actually stop and write notes all over my book! I have to highlight things or put sticky notes on interesting things I read and it forces me to think deeper about what the authors is actually saying, as opposed to just what's on the surface. It's a good habit I know, but now I can't read as fast and nonchalantly as I used to, which is irritating.
    Stamped from the Beginning focuses on the history of racist ideas in America and how they have been instilled in our society. This book argues that instead of the racist and antiracist narratives we've been exposed to, there is actually three sides to the age old debate of racial disparity- segregationists, assimilationists, and antiracists. Kendi claims, "A group we can call segregationists has blamed Black people themselves for the racial disparities. A group we can call antiracists has pointed to racial discrimination. A group we can call assimilationists has tried to argue for both, saying that Black people and racial discrimination were to blame for racial disparities. "(Kendi 2) The book explores the narrative of five intellectuals all throuought history, from Thomas Jefferson in the beginnings of America to Angela Davis in modern day. One of the tour guides of this book is William Lloyd Garrison, an activist for emancipation and civil rights. Although, Kendi proves that Garrisons’ intentions weren't rooted in antiracists ideas at all, but instead an assimilationist perspective that is racist in itself, "...Garrison kept arriving in the same racist place as his enslaving enemies--subhuman Black inferiority...[He] enjoyed presenting two types of Black people: degrading or excelling. He hoped the narrative elicited White 'sympathy' and 'untiring' efforts 'to break every yoke'...After all, Garrison had packaged the book in his assimilationist idea of the enslaved or free African as actually subpar, someone 'capable of high attainments as an intellectual and moral being-- needing nothing but a comparatively small amount of cultivation to make him an ornament to society and a blessing to his race." (Kendi 184) Kendi shows the complexity and, honestly, the ridiculousness of Garrisons' point of view. He fought for the civil rights of African Americans, all based on racist ideas. He believed, as well as other assimilationists, that Black people were not already moral and sophisticated characters, and that they needed to assimilate into White culture in order to reach their full potential. He spoke about how the racism they endured transformed them into barbarians, and that they should be accepted into White society in order to be a "blessing to his race, " and saved in some way, which is a hidden racist narrative we can see today in the murder of unarmed black men. Assimlationsis have blamed both the unarmed black men and the officers who killed them. They claim both were irresponsible criminals and, most importantly, still paints Black people in a bad light, all the while trying to cover up their underlying racism by claiming that it was the officers fault too. Whether you support this narrative or not, we can see how it dates back to the times of William Lloyd Garrison and how it was instilled into our society.
    Kendi presents an interesting point of view- assimilationst.I had always researched the racists and antiracists narratives of society, never realizing that there could be another side to the coin. I had also never considered the intentions of these civil rights activists and how their motives could be rooted in racism. I pulled William Garrisons’ original preface of Fedrick Douglass’ narrative from the internet as a primary source. William Garrison has just met Fedrick Douglass at an anti-slavery convention and although supportive of him, we must question why he supports him and how he is able to promote the rights of Blacks in America.. just maybe he’s doing it by making Whites feel bad for Blacks. This assimilationst way of thinking is toxic because it does still exist in our society and can be just as dangerous as blatant racism.

Citations:

Gladwell, Malcom. Outliers. Little, Brown and Company, 2011. -MLA

Kendi, Ibram X. Stamped From The Beginning. Nation Books, 2016. - MLA

William Lloyd Garrison, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. Accessed 11 Nov 2017. http://utc.iath.virginia.edu/abolitn/abaufda1t.html - Chicago

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Complexity of Good and Evil

     One of my biggest challenges these first weeks of school has been maintaining balance. I'm finding it more and more difficult to find time for everything I have to do as I get older. Maybe it's a part of growing up, or maybe it's just a part of being in the most stressful year of high school; junior year. Admist my homework for AP Humanities and PreAp Pre Cal, my job, kickboxing class, and my diminishing social life, I admit I have little time to read. The first couple of weeks of school I wasn't reading at all outside of school. Some of it was due to the fact that I was struggling to find a book that caught my attention, because as soon as I picked up The Chemist by Stephanie Meyer, I found myself putting in more effort to read, even if it was the small window in between when I washed my face and brushed my teeth at night to when I fell asleep. Recently, I've found myself reading at least fifteen to twenty minutes a day outside of school, although there are days I'll be exhausted and only get to read two pages before sleep consumes me. But, for the most part, I willingly sacrifice precious minutes of sleep-because every minute of sleep at this point of my life is precious-to get a couple pages in. By the end of this year, I hope to be reading thirty minutes daily outside of the time my teacher allots for us. Currently in The Chemist by Stephanie Meyer, I am only ninety pages in. I say 'only' because this book is very lengthy with a whopping five hundred and eighteen pages. The two hundred page romance books I was reading in Cancun over the summer surely do not compare. Despite the length, though, this book is not very out of my comfort zone. Since middle school I've been reading long dystopian and science fiction novels and I wanted to choose something I'm used to to get back into the groove of things before I start forcing myself to get through a full historical nonfiction novel without crying of boredom.

     In the beginning of The Chemist, the main character, Juliana, is contacted by her ex employers, a secret department of the U.S Government, to aide them in a complicated mission. Juliana is the best at what she does, so there is no doubt they would want her on the job, but she is reluctant to accept considering shes been on the run from them for three years since they've tried to kill her. This particular department specializes in terrorism and the protection of U.S citizens. From preventing nuclear explosions to biological warfare outbreaks, this department thrives on its purpose to protect the common people. They're supposed to be the good guys. (But, if we're being realistic here, how good CAN a classified department of the United States government even be?) A close friend of Juliana who was murdered by the department warned her before he died saying, "You don't have to do anything wrong. You can be perfectly trustworthy. They're the ones you can't trust." (Meyer 15) recalling this, Juliana thinks to herself years later, "So much for working for the good guys,"(Meyer 15). She says this in a mocking way, to prove how hypocritical the department is. They claim they're the good guys yet they kill people without reason. Still, when working there Juliana was convinced her work was for a good cause, to protect the millions of innocent American lives. Throughout the book she is continuously critical of the department and calls them out multiple times. Later we see a different side of her, a side not so different from the department, that may have been the reason she fit in so well for so long. Although she doesn't accept the departments offer, she feels guilty that, because she denies her help, innocent people will die, so she takes matters into her own hands and kidnaps the terrorist the government is investigating and tries to get information out of him the way she knows best,  "She was her other self now, the one the department called the Chemist, and the Chemist was a machine. Pitiless and relentless. Her monster was free now,"(Meyer 81). This shows us a much different side of Juliana that we've seen so far. Throughout the beginning of the book she is portrayed as fearful and small compared to the department and now, we see what she is really capable of. It's ironic considering how judgmental she was of the department when, in a lot of ways, she's no different. She uses the excuse of the greater good to justify the cruel actions she takes joy in. This leads me to wonder if anybody can be fully good or fully bad, because sometimes even the good guys are really really bad.

     Throughout my childhood I grew up believing  there was a clear cut line between the heroes and villains. Though, as I grow up, I'm realizing that that line is actually incredibly blurry. Some of the people we look up to today might've done some awful things and some of the people we consider the 'bad guys' may have done some very admirable things. As MLK once said, "There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us." One of the most infamous villains in our recent history is Pablo Escabor, a notorious drug lord known for his billion dollar cocaine empire. Although there is no denying the evils the man did, people question if he was really all bad. We are taught to view drug lords as immoral criminals, but the truth is people in Escobars' hometown of Medellin, Columbia worshipped him. They loved him more than the Colombian government. In this article, we see how their loyalty emerged from Escobar's charity to the poor in Columbia. He constructed housing , schools, hospitals, and churches in the community all the while opening job opportunities. Pablo's Escobar was a savior for the Colombian people, all the while being considered a monster by the rest of us. Thisn goes to show the complexity of 'good and bad' and how maybe the good guys we put our trust in  aren’t always as good as we think.

Citations:

Bowley, Jenna. "Robin Hood or Villain: The Social Constructions of Pablo Escobar" (2013). Honors College. Paper 109. h p://digitalcommons.library.umaine.edu/honors/109 -Chicago 


Meyer, Stephanie. The Chemist. Little, Brown and Company, 2016. - MLA

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Rich and Poor- The Division of Classes

     I've been on the right track with my reading goals. Although outside of school I tend to read more short stories than anything. Again, I have my Science Fiction class to thank for this. My teacher assigns us science fiction stories to read and annotate, which takes me about an hour outside of school. Though recently we were assigned a book report over a- surprise, surprise- science fiction or dystopian novel! I've enjoyed many science fiction novels in the past, so quite frankly this genre isn't really new for me. Still, I was able to find a way to challenge myself. I chose a book about magic. And although this is a common theme in dystopian novels, it's one that I haven't been able to really appreciate. Anything including spells and dark magic doesn't really interest me, mainly because I could never see it happening in our world. But, this book was recommended to me, and the blurb seemed interesting enough, so I decided to give it a shot. I have chosen to read Blood Rose Rebellion  by Rosalyn Eves. I have been reading for about 30 minutes each day outside of school, but because I have been reading The Great Gatsby as well, I've only read about 150 out of the 416 pages in Blood Rose Rebellion. Surprisingly, I've really enjoyed it and haven't even thought about abandoning it.
     In this society, The Circle was made up of people with magic, people superior to those who weren't gifted. They had fingers in every branch of government and had better living standards. Regular people, those that consisted of the working class in the society, resented those with magic and some would even gather at a street named "Speakers Corner" to speak out against the Luminate, or the people with magic. One man in particular spoke out saying, "For too long the Luminate have fattened themselves upon the labor of the working class. It is our work, our sweat, and our blood that makes their lives possible." (Eves 20)
     In America, the wealthy corporations have always taken advantage of the working class and have failed to give them the rights they've deserved. Corporations have taken advantage of foreign laborers for years and have failed to pay them and protect them correctly. Very minimal, if any, healthcare is provided and minimum wage isn't enough to live off of any more. While corporations create monopolies, the working class has become exploited to benefit the wealthy. This proves that in every society there has to be someone who suffers while others thrive; there can never be a completely utopian society. This novel displays a division between classes that we can see in America today.
   

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

     My reading outside of School has gotten significantly better. Although it's not really my choice, but rather my desire not to fail my Science Fiction class that prompted this. Me and five other students in my group were assigned a title to read and discuss. We chose Brave New World  by Aldous Huxley, a science fiction novel that was written in the thirties, so the diction used was a little dated, as well as the references. Because of this, the book was a little more challenging than others I've read this semester. Since we were given two weeks to read two hundred and sixty pages to finish our novel, and we had group discussions every two days,  I had to read around twenty pages daily. Not to mention annotate them, which was a whole other challenge in itself. This forced me to set at least an hour and a half outside of school to focus on the book and analyze what I read for the day. I appreciated that I was able to accomplish my goal of reading more outside of school, but I was so glad when I finally finished the book a couple days ago.
     In chapter 17, a man known as the "Savage" caught a glimpse of the new society the World leaders have created and hated it. He found it disgusting that no one was an individual with their own creativity and beliefs. They all just blindly followed the government so that everyone could live in what they believed was happiness, even though all they've sacrificed wasn't worth it. The "savage" explains, "But I don't want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin."(240)
    In our modern American society, we are allowed to think and believe freely. We can create our own paths and lifestyles without judgment without being labeled a savage by most. Although there are plenty prejudices in our society, we are entitled to our own beliefs. For example, we don't have to worship a God, but we are given the choice to do so if we wish. We are given the gift to pursue our own happiness without having to sacrifice anything. So, when the savage uses repetition to explain what he desires, I can acknowledge that what he wants is the freedom to choose what he wants for himself as we are allowed. Because, despite all the issues our society has, we are always given the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.