Monday, March 31, 2014

“The Rebirth of Caste”, “Introduction”, “Growing Inequality in the Twenty-First Century”, and “What are we Going to do Differently Tomorrow”

Very seldom do people contemplate history. Honestly, throughout the panic and consumption of any given day, how much of that day is devoted to contemplation and remembrance of our past and those who created the present. Honoring those who fought for our freedoms is essential to its maintenance and the commitment for a brighter future. Jim Crow South is undoubtedly in the past, but the effects linger on into society to this very day. 

The caste system was first born in India, when those who were ‘lesser’ were placed at the bottom of an imaginary social class pyramid. The largest and least privileged—called the untouchables— were placed at the bottom of the pyramid, and the social classes worked their way up to the top. The untouchables were just that, untouchable, and were denied basic rights and the freedom to marry outside of their class. Sound familiar? In “The Rebirth of the Caste,” the chapter begins with a quote by W. E. B. Du Bois, “the slave went free; stood a brief moment in the sun; then moved back again towards slavery.” In the days of slavery, there was a clear caste system. Some may argue that since slaves were not considered human they were not included in the caste, but no can argue that slaves endured the brunt of all other social classes. Then in 1863 with the Emancipation Proclamation, slaves were sent free. This must have been a bewildering time for America, because as culture deems necessary and also narrated by Du Bois, a new caste system needed to be devised. So, as it went, a new caste system was created, and it was called black or white. You need not know a man’s profession, family, religion, or personality, all that was necessary for an assessment was the color of his skin. From slavery into Jim Crow and eventually a prison cell, little has been done to correct the oppression that was implemented on the black race to this very day.

The Jim Crow South was decades ago, but as we’ve established earlier in this post, very seldom does one reflect on the past. If one did, they would realize that racism is in the very fabric of American culture. Whether its education, employment, or health care, it seems as though the more ‘advanced’ we become as a nation, the more we remove ourselves from the work done by our ancestors to remove racism from our country. 

The next article titled ‘Growing Inequality in the Twenty-First Century’ featured topics that were not directly geared towards race but more on the dissonance between classes and how the government has done little to nothing to mend this tear. Growing up in an upper-middle class family, I had never truly thought about what my life may be like when I am in what they call ‘the real world.’ Will I have to implement the suggestions in this article, such as relying on multiple wages, delaying retirement, or having fewer children? It’s strange to think about, but these are the types of issues that so many families across the nation are faced with, many of them black. 

There is so much to be done and so many avenues to change them, but one message portrayed throughout the chapter was the difference between what can be done and what America is willing to do. A change in tax policy, government spending, and advance asset accumulation are all roads that can lead to a more integrated and equal America, but the problem is not implementing these avenues, it’s the inspiration needed from those in power to help those beneath their ‘caste.’ Only when America is no longer seen as separate castes, but as a cohesive unit, will true equality and freedom prevail. 

‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail’ and President Obama’s ‘Race Speech’

It seems as though injustice is threaded into the fabric of existence. Whether it be the inexcusable distribution of incarceration, the glass ceiling a black man hits when applying for a job, or the refusal of medical treatment when a nurse discovers there is no insurance. It’s unavoidable and seemingly constant. 

It’s unrealistic to believe that total equality can be achieved. Although disappointing and discouraging, there will be no day when the past can be corrected or the human race will have another go at writing their history, and even more importantly, there will never be a day when the reflection of our history will not burn in some way or another. People are often hesitant or reluctant to blatantly discuss American history. Words like slavery or racism are seldom seen outside of a textbook or heard outside of a classroom, which in some ways reinforces the idea that it is just that; educational. I strive to argue the contrary.  

In no way are the horrors faced by certain ethnic groups in America meant to serve as fairy tales or folklore. History has come and history has gone and history is being made this very moment, but both the oppression and oppressed prevail. With that said, it should be every Americans goal to move towards a greater future and more equal existence, but very often the resentment and bitterness of the past prevents us in creating new bonds and progress. The black community, forever reminded of the oppression of slavery and Jim Crow south, and the recent bitterness developed by the white community, feeling as though they are somehow punished for the actions of their ancestors. Feelings such as these— and many more— serve as a locked gate that shuts out any concept of understanding and hope, but this lock can be lifted. 

Living in a colorblind society has been the most detrimental implementation when it comes to equality of the races. History is an integral part in a racial group and culture, and ignoring the ups and downs of a racial group is in no way conducive to it’s progression into the future. In Obama’s words, “race is an issue that this nation cannot afford to ignore.”
This color-blind disposition and refusal to understand one another is the very blockage we face as a nation. As made evident in Dr. King’s letter, oppression was an integral part of American history, and made evident by President Obama, oppression is still present this very day. The reflection of these two monumental leaders paints a picture of the past and present, and the images bear unsettling resemblance. Obama speaks of the fluctuating freedoms when it comes to health care, employment, and education, but greatly expands on the necessity of unity. 

It seems so fundamental, but the greatest and most challenging problem our nation has faced throughout history is the necessity of unity. Whether it be in gender, race, religion, or more presently, sexuality, America is somewhat inept at allowing all of its citizens the freedom of an  equal life. 

Martin Luther King exclaimed, “Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider” and Barack Obama said, “Not this time” in response to the division of our nation, but each speak of the need of unity if America strives for a more cohesive and equal union. Both amazing men speak the truth, but words alone are not enough. It is not enough to recognize racism in history, we must recognize racism as alive today. It is not enough to recognize social inequality a thing of the past, when almost all forms of social programs today are segregated and unequal. It is not enough to speak of unity, when your very actions contradict this claim. We, as a nation, and as uncomfortable as it may be, must face these issues and overcome the dissonance in our present-day society. America: the self-proclaimed ‘land of the free’; its about time we own up to our name. 

Sunday, March 30, 2014


It’s so crazy to me how, in this day and age, we get caught up in material things. I will be the first one in the room to attest to this statement. When it comes to my gym shoes I do not joke around. I have become so tangled in the “shoe game” that I lost track of what was important in my life. I lost track of what I wanted to be remembered by. I was to the point where I would be remembered as the girl who had all the latest Jordan’s and was always at work but never in class. As I look at it now I see a disaster. Before this trip I would have considered myself lucky to have all this cool stuff.

This trip has helped me to figure out what things I needed to place of high value in my life. I look back on the sit-ins in North Carolina and never do I recall that they considered having on all the latest articles of clothing on when going to the diner. They were more concerned with where they would end up and if they had clean underwear incase that place was jail.

If I may, I believe that majority of my generation was concerned with a lot of the same things that I was. It’s just sad to know that all of them won’t get the same experience that will change their lives and thoughts.  What’s even worst is that some of us who got the experience also “missed” the experience. It’s one thing to learn something and to apply it is another. That is what my generation lacks, application. We have things to stand for but we don’t have the drive to act.

Another thing is the fact that we don’t see what’s right in our face. We as a generation conform to what our bully expects of us. I heard something from my group leader that absolutely blew my mind. She stated, “Only 10% of Wisconsin is Black but 54% of the prison system is composed of African Americans”. How crazy is that? What makes it worse is the fact that not many people know that and not many people care to know.
If not now then when, if not us then who..?
Day Four

            Yesterday we visited places such as the Rosa Parks Museum, MLK Parsonage, and Southern Poverty Law Center, but the most eventful location by far was the Alabama State Capital. From the outside of the capital, the confederate memorial monument was the most visible. The monument was undoubtably racist, and should have foreshadowed what was within. The monument featured certain historic figures in Alabama, all white, and the four facades featured poems such as “the knightliest of the knightly race who since the days of old, have kept the lamp of chivalry alight in hearts of gold” which served as a sort of catalyst as we started the tour. As we began the tour, racial undertones were evident. The confederate flag was hanging alongside the american flag and the depictions of ‘happy slaves’ were appalling. 
            As we started to question the tour guides, I realized how much of an integral part in some cultures racism truly is. The tour guides didn’t seem to be cognizant of the extent of racism in the capital building even when our concerns were brought to the surface. We left the capital feeling disgusted and discouraged, but that quickly changed when we stepped outside its walls.
          As we walked out of the building, we saw a group of people walking toward the capital with a colorful wreath. I soon found out that among those in the group was the Governor of Alabama as well as several who had participated in the march to Selma so long ago. As they climbed the steps, they placed the wreath in front of the capital building and began to sing. This moment was truly definitive for me; it marked the beauty and importance of learning history, but also keeping it alive. Looking around, I observed some weeping and others looking pensive, but all there that day held a deep respect for those who fought so bravely for the rights we have today. 
        I spoke with some of the participants when the memorial ended, and their stories were absolutely amazing. Most spoke of the violence they received from state troopers or the hatred they experienced while during the march, but all spoke of the extreme sense of pride and achievement they felt when reflecting on their experience. This spoke volumes to me, because it solidified to me that although social justice seems impossible and extremely discouraging in the moment, those who preserve will overcome.          In today’s society, it seems as though all of the issues are irrevocable or impossible to correct, but conversations with those so heavily involved in the greatest social movement in American history reminded me that the struggle for justice and freedom is nothing short of rewarding. 

American history is incredibly rich, and it infuriated me that as prestigious of a place as the Alabama state capital turned a blind eye to a huge part of our history. I think that taking this trip has opened my eyes to the amount of denial and ignorance that still is present in America. I’m grateful that I have been afforded the opportunities to learn about the civil rights via this pilgrimage and strive to teach others what I’ve learned.

*Sorry this post is late! My computer was dodgy the last half of the trip. 

AFRO 298 Post #5

Well the civil rights pilgrimage has finally come to an end! It was absolutely the best spring break trip I've ever had! I was able to reflect on so much after this trip. Our last few days were spent  in Little Rock, Arkansas and Memphis, Tennessee. In Little Rock, we visited the Little Rock Central High School which is where the Little Rock Nine attempt for racial integration in the school occurred back in 1957. This was one of my most anticipated stops on our trip. While walking up the steps of the school, I could just imagine and hear the taunting and shouting of people who didn't want you to enter the school simply because of your skin color. It really made me think about how grateful I am for those who have came before me and suffered so much for so many things we often take for granted like the ability to drink from any public water fountain or be able to sit in any seat on a public  city bus. Even when we visited the Voters Rights Museum, it reminded me of a conversation I had with my mother before this trip. She had asked me is I was going to be voting in the Chicago primary and I replied "no" because I always had the perception that all (or most) politicians were evil and corrupt and therefore I didn't see the point in voting for this election.  However she told me that many people suffered in the past so that I could have the privilege of being able to vote. She was exactly right & we learned that at the museum. Black people had to undergo very difficult tests just to be able to vote and the fact that that is no longer an issue is something to be truly grateful for.
  After Little Rock, we left for Memphis, Tennessee. Apart from Atlanta, Memphis was definitely my other favorite stop on this trip.  I loved the liveliness and friendliness of the people on Beale Street. I also had a very reflective moment while we were at the Lorraine Motel, where Dr. King was assassinated. It was there that history changed forever. It really made me think that even though so many people can be against you, you can still  achieve so much in a non-violent way. Of course, the battle against racism and discrimination is still something that needs to be addressed but because of the work of great civil rights activists like MLK and Rosa Parks, progress has definitely been made in the United States.

This trip reminded me that someone actually shed blood, sweat and tears (literally) just so that I could be able to live a better life today in this day and age and I will be forever grateful.On a final note, I really enjoyed this experience of traveling to the South and learning so much about the civil rights pilgrimage with so many wonderful people! This is an experience I will never ever forget!

Just that Easy

This post is for you, because you missed discussion, or because you couldn't find the words to say how you really felt
This post is about you, directed to you, for the good of you
It's meant to help you to find what's true... 
To your head, your heart, and your hands
It begins with a simple question that I've frequently been asked
It is pretty deep and it'll surely make you think.
What is it that you want to be remembered for?
How big will your footprint be?
This was important to me to share with you what I want my kids to see
I want my life to be filled with diversity and integration
Through the work of education I will be sure to mix dedication 
With a sense of aspiration to a mix of complications 
That will lead to the integration of a bunch of little people 
Little people that will change the world 
Because they'll know that it's ok that your friends little brother is in a wheel chair 
That just means he's a tad bit different and that they should treat him no different then anybody else
The trick to a good community 
Is simply put.... UNITY
Like the very fine Booker T once said "separate but equal"
There's no possible way to get everybody together 
But the way I see it is this...
If he knows that she knows that he went through the things that they caused 
Then maybe just maybe she'll understand that he doesn't quite understand their ways and she'll look past his flaws
And further more she'll accept him... Flaws and all
One of the most important things in life is support
through support we can change the world!
Support is apart of the big make-up of Unity
Through support we can do "this" 
Just you, him, her and me
We can have the audacity  to put one foot ahead of the other
Sister to sister, and brother to brother
Change can be  just that easy!

Saturday, March 29, 2014


I am glad that we were able to be in the exact spot where nine heroes stepped forward and altered history. They stood for racial equality and they took so many different measures to make sure that this was done. They challenged the society they lived in and I know that if they could do it being about our age that we are today we can do the same and make changes. I ended up watching a clip from Oprah a few years ago that featured 7 of the little rock nine and a few white students who had different doings in this event. One of the students who were brutally evil to the students came on Oprah and apologized for his actions. When asked why did he do the things that he had done he replied it wasn’t out of hate but out of ignorance. Another student who was a part of yelling “2-4-6-8 we don’t want to integrate” and a silent witness both apologized for their actions in this mistreatment of the little rock nine. The root of all racism is ignorance.

It felt surreal looking at the pictures of the school with the mob and watching videos of the mob following the students and everything that was going on. To know that I was standing on that very ground made a more bigger impact on myself. I enjoyed seeing different videos and interviews featuring the little rock nine and getting more in depth on their own personal experiences. They all had similar suffering experiences but they still had their own perspective and seeing that instead of hearing someone talk about them as a whole was very interesting. It made me research more videos and looking more into the media to see how this was covered.

I wish there were more genuine people and resources that were willing to help these students when they needed it the most. Some of these students suffered from trauma that still affects them until this day and that is heartbreaking. I do feel overjoyed with appreciation to these students to making this stand that encouraged those everywhere to make the same stand and give us the opportunity to receive a equal education as many others who may or may not be like us.

Post 5: Radical= Necessary

I make a lot of people angry. All of the time. I shake a lot of people up, I make them uncomfortable, shock them and press them and debate them. This is because I am, above all, honest with them. The reason that I do this is simple; I believe that it is far too easy to get away with superficial and base level analyses of the oppression and marginalization that exists in our world is a disservice to social justice. I dislike the over simplification of our global history of oppression in our textbooks, media, museums and classrooms. In the context of this pilgrimage, it has to do with what the Civil Rights Movement really meant. I know that you know about who Martin Luther King, Jr. is. I am glad you have a picture of Rosa Parks in your dorm room. It is great that you left the movie theater with righteous indignation after seeing Django. But here is the problem. A lot of people are that way. But still, things are not changing. The Black community is still socially and institutionally oppressed, and I have the statistics on poverty, health, education and violence to prove it. So it appears as though, if you really want change, that “activism” you pride yourself on is not enough. That is also why the idea of “radicalism” is completely ridiculous. By pushing you to research Operation: COINTELPRO or consider the inherent sexism of the Civil Rights Movement, I am not being radical. I am being honest to the realities of social justice and I am pushing you to do the same because you are capable of doing that. And if you find it annoying, overly negative or unjustified, then you need to rethink your commitment to making things better. Being interested in social justice is not a Get Out of Jail Free card for critical analysis.
             I am not a conspiracy theorist. I am simply doing what I believe is right by questioning the things we consider to be the norm (i.e. the prison industrial system, slut shaming, the gender binary and xenophobia common in immigration legislation). Radical, you say? So was the questioning of segregation in the 1940’s and 1950’s. Not to mention the fight against the consistent lynching of Black men and women. Same goes for the thought that all people, regardless of race, should e considered human. These concepts and ideas made many people uncomfortable and “agitated them”. But that agitation led to the Civil Rights movements and its subsequent success in the legislative realm. It led to the right of Black men to vote and eat in restaurants and stay in hotels with their fellow countrymen. “Radical” thought of the past has led to the rights and freedoms we take for granted today. And there are many, many people that need “radicalism” to achieve social and institutional equality today. Women, trans* individuals, Muslims, people with disabilities, veterans, non neurotypical people. Name a minority group and they need “radicalism”. So please excuse me if I don’t appreciate it being synonymous with “annoying”, “depressing”, or “polarizing”. Try “necessary”, instead.

Afro 298 Alabama Visit

If I had to describe my visit and experience to the state of Alabama the two words I would use are eye-opening and appalling! The first place that really resonated with me during my visit was Tuskegee University! I have literally fallen in love with that place! Although the black population there is about the same size as the black population at U of I the entire feel on that campus is different. At first I will admit being part of the majority of a campus kind of felt weird to me. Even as a black female I felt out of place, well initially at least. But the more time I spent on the campus talking to students, to professors, and learning about all the amazing history that founded and took place on those grounds I felt more and more at home. Everyone and I mean everyone was very welcoming. Even the atmosphere of the institution was refreshing. I am so use to all the rushing, hustling, and bustling that takes place on the ILLINI campus- just to see how the students there take their time and literally stroll from one destination to another really stuck with me. And I know that these are really minute details but they are just so foreign to me. You can tell that everyone from freshman to administrators are proud to be a part of the Tuskegee legacy. You’ll hear faculty say they choose to work there because they wanted to be a part of something special and the the history of the institution itself is so rich. And you can tell that this history is ingrained into the fabric of Tuskegee because every student I spoke with at random knew the history like the back of their had. It is an amazing dynamic because I sure don’t know the history of the University of Illinois like that!

Another place that stood out to me was the State Capital of Alabama, but unlike Tuskegee that experience will stick with me for the rest of life- however, for very negative reasons. I have never experienced such an openly racist place in my life. Although the people working there may refuse to admit it to me that state capital is nothing but a shrine to the Confederate south. I mean as soon as you step on the ground the Confederate flag is everywhere, they have statues commemorating the “war heroes” and Confederate generals. Inside the actual building the images of African Americans and Native American are beyond degrading, and not to mention inaccurate! Blacks were depicted as happy with being slaves and sharecroppers, while Native American were painted as hostile savages. The woman giving the us the tour was very proud of her Confederate heritage to say the least, and everything was just sickening. I mean I understand that the Confederate and the ideas of the people who were a part of it are a part of the states history. But I honestly feel like if they are so strong in honoring that part of their history maybe they should build a museum or something dedicated to that. But to have these flags and pictures and history that is beyond offensive  African Americans embedded in a building that serves as a working state capital is appalling. That is some plan that I NEVER plan to visit again.

Afro 298- Ebenezer Reflection

One of the most memorable experiences on this trip for me was going to the Sunday church service at Ebenezer Baptist Street Church. It meant a lot ot me both spiritually as a Christian and historically as a black women interested in African American history. It felt so welcoming walking into that church! I was greeted with smiles and “good morning’s” as soon as I walked in. It was nice because I honestly haven’t been to church on a consistent basis since I transferred to the University of Illinois. Being back in a church atmosphere in general made me feel like “ oh my god! this is what I’ve been missing every Sunday?!”. But being in that church specifically was very special. I have never been to a mega church and I am not sure if Ebenezer qualifies as one of those but if I had to describe my experience at Ebenezer the word I would use is definitely magnified  The choir was amazing, the church was pack, the speaker and congregation interacting was refreshing. I loved it! There was even a point where one of the preachers started rapping! And you could tell that Ebenezer really makes an effort to cater to their youth. I think it is awesome to see that they invited the local high school choir to sing with them, had the children’s choir perform, and actually have a separate service for the children.

I also think that another part of what made that experience stick out for me is when I listened to the reaction of my peers. Being a young Christian I get a lot of flack about how Christians are judgmental and hypocritical people. And although those views are over generalized people do view us that way. So to hear almost everyone that came on this trip say that they felt at home, welcomed, comfortable, and even enjoyed the service at Ebenezer made me really happy. Because that is the type of impact that church and we as Christian people are suppose to have on those around us. And the people who said that they felt this way were not Christians or even spiritual or religious people at all, yet they all still described their experience at Ebenezer as free and uplifting.   

This really help put into perspective for me why the church was so essential to the civil rights movement, and how it was critical to keeping the people going. People did not just come to church on Sunday to meet with God but they came to be uplifted, encouraged, and for the great sense on community. And when you are pushing back and fighting things like racism, segregation, and hate groups like the Klu Klux Klan you needed a power source to keep you going- I mean everything African Americans were dealing with back then it’s no wonder how some of them probably felt drained. But Church served as that power house and back bone for those people. And after my experience at Ebenezer I can understand why. Also, the one major thing I noticed when the preacher gave his sermon is that the message of that church in particular has not changed! After all these years Ebenezer is still fighting for social, and economic justice for all people. Martin Luther Kings words “ injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” are still what drives that church stand up for what is right! I think that is beyond admirable. Somehow they still find a way to tie politics and faith together to push people to take action for social change. As far as I can see times may have changed but the mission and the dynamic on Ebenezer have not. :)  


Throughout this trip I have gained a sense of importance when it comes to my education. I just left Little Rock Central High School. There I was told the story of the "Little Rock 9". It's so sad to hear that many children of the 1900's had to fight for their educations. I literally mean fight physically and mentally. Then we look at today's education system and we see these high drop out rates and low attendance rates. It is only a very short fifty odd years from the days when schools were not even allowed to be integrated. How is it that in such a short amount of time the value of education has nearly seized to exist? 

I would never believe that their are more kids outside of college than in college because of my privilege. I am fortunate enough to have been surrounded by other people who have the same basic aim for success as me. It was never an option for me to not go to school. As I talk to the people around me I hear that it is the same for them as well. 

When i first began school I of course wanted to do good, but I did not want to put in the work. I really took my opportunity to continue my education for granted. I took the funds for granted and my time spent. After this trip I feel as though I have come to realize my mission. I have also found goals for me to aim towards and a reason to work. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Afro 298 fifth assignment

Little Rock, Arkansas was definitely my favorite place we visited on this trip so far. The film we watched was very powerful because it contained interviews of members of the Little Rock nine in present day. It is evident that what happened in that high school still affects them all to this day. The struggles they went through stick with them through their whole lives. It is tragic what happened to those students, and their voices need to be heard and their story needs to be remembered and used as an inspiration for the continuation of integrating schools today. Many schools in the nation remained socially segregated. This affects Black populations economically and creates even bigger economic disparities between Whites and Blacks. This is not something the Little Rock Nine would tolerate.

It really hit me the hardest when we walked to the high school and stood in front of it. Standing there, I pictured the nine brave souls expecting to be protected by the state troops but instead being harassed by White mobs. The amount of prejudice the nine faced was difficult for me to take in. I cannot imagine what it must have been like to go through this severe form of bullying every day at school. When the tour guide talked about Minnijean, I was very inspired. It took a lot of guts to walk through those hallways each day, being chased down stairs and kicked and spit on by horribly racist White students. And she walked down those hallways like she belonged. I felt very enraged when I found out she was expelled from the school after being treated the way she was. I was also very enraged after learning that one of the nine was chased by a White mob with her mother and could have very well been killed if they had not made it to their car on time. When another one of the nine was walking trough a White mob and the reporter whispered to her not to cry in front of them, it shows just how one little act can really change a person's life. If she would have cried in front of them, they would have seen her as weak, giving them more power.

I don't know how anyone could possibly get over those brutal experiences they encountered at Little Rock Central High School. Hearing that one of the nine has PTSD and has trouble going into the school makes me think of everything that could have been done in order to protect her from the discrimination she faced. Orval Faubus should never have never sent in troops to prevent them from entering the building, and the White mob should never have harassed the nine. Unfortunately, the lack of assistance and aggression towards the vulnerable nine in this story isn't unique. Across the South, the desegregation of schools encountered resistance from racist Whites, but many of the stories were not covered by the media. Those courageous students need to be remembered just as the Little Rock Nine are remembered today.

Afro 298 5th Blog Post

The education system in America has always been something I have been intrigued about. Where my friends went to school versus where I went to school was always somewhere different, but it became the norm. In my hometown there are three districts that are used to separate the various children in two sister cities. It just so happens that my parent decided from Kindergarten that they wanted to enroll me in a private school education rather than public. As I grew up, unfamiliar adults and other kids would ask me where I went to school, and I was proud to say a private school because I held it with a different amount of respect then the surrounding schools. Growing up in a private school from Kindergarten to Eighth grade allowed me to incorporate Christianity in school, instead of barely being able to touch the surface in public schooling. Being at a private school allowed me to gain a great education, take Spanish since Kindergarten, and being a smaller classroom setting than my friends, but it came with a price. Even though I went to this private school there were numerous occasions when I felt alone due to the color of my skin. I, along with around 10 other black children, were they only ones represented at our school, which held around 200 people. I felt alone. Being in a smaller setting allowed for us to really get to know each other, but most of them were not interested in having a black kid come over, or hang out after school. I became accustomed to hearing, “Why do you sound so white? Why don’t you talk ghetto? Are you really black? Why don’t you eat fried chicken? You’re not really black.” Hearing these questions became the norm for me because these unaccustomed white children had been raised to believe, whether it came from their parents or simply turning on the television, that all black people were a certain way, yet I was different. This story is very similar to our experience today in Little Rock, Arkansas.

            Today I woke up excited because I knew that our group was going to be heading to see the school that changed it all. I was going to be able to see where integrating schools started and I could not wait. When we arrived to the historical site I become very quiet, almost as if the excitement that so joyously filled my body had been knocked away in a blink of an eye. Instantly I started to feel bittersweet because in a few minutes I was going to be standing in the same spot where nine courageous black students decided to be heroes amongst their peers and the rest of the world. Before we arrived at the school we were guided into a movie room where we watched a small clip about the history of Little Rock Central and how it became integrated. I learned that the Governor of Arkansas ordered for the guards to permit these nine students from entering the school at all costs, even though federal law allowed it. I also learned that there was a judge who played an integral role in overturning the Governors order, eventually allowing these nine students to attend Little Rock Central High School. Arriving at the school took my breath away because we were in the same location where so much brutality took place just because those nine students wanted to make a difference, even though the whites did not agree. Although my story is drastically different than the nine students who endured this horrible treatment, I now have a greater appreciation for them and my education. I know that my ability to go to an integrated university was because these individuals had the courage to take that first step and I am forever grateful.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Racism 101: How to Talk about it and confront i

            There is so much to learn on this Pilgrimage. For many students, this is their first experience with the history of the Civil Rights Movement. For others, this is first experience critically thinking about the history of racial oppression in the United States. But for most of the students on this trip, this is the first experience truly and honestly discussing their racial experiences and politics. While it can be incredibly rejuvenating and exciting to talk about these things, I have noticed that tensions run high as we experience the different tactics people take in processing and dialoguing about racial oppression. Things from baiting individuals with opposing views to yelling and aggressively debating others, I and many of my peers have experienced intense discomfort.
            I find myself lucky for all of the opportunities I have had to talk about race. As an AFRO minor, I have become more and more comfortable learning and speaking on the subject. In my position as a Resident Advisor at Allen Hall, I have been able to learn how to approach the topic of race tactfully and respectfully, while also educating residents on its importance. Although I am by no means perfect and always have something new to learn, but I feel very comfortable with racial dialogue and look forward to it. There are a couple of things that I have learned, through trial error, that have made my discussions in this trip much more comfortable and productive.
            Remember: Privilege really is Black and white.
I think it is easy to think of privilege as being experiential as opposed to visual. The problem is that, as beings of peripheral categorization, we rarely reach an understanding of how people’s invisible identities and life experiences affect them and their privilege. This is why understanding the important of race is essential, because our first understanding of each other is completely visual and based on race, gender, physical ability and size and the meanings and values we associate with those identities. This is why, I believe, racial hatred and violence is so easy to fall into; snap judgments lessens the responsibility we feel we need to take to fully judge a person. So, when it comes to navigating discussions of privilege, it is really important to understand that visual privilege is on the front line of oppression. On this trip, I have noticed a lot of people comparing nonvisual privilege (sexual orientation, nationality within race, class, etc.) to visual privilege, especially up against Black identity. Understanding that there do exist privilege hierarchies (although extremely problematic and useless on a personal level) is extremely important to having discussions on race, especially with people you don’t know.

What you see is not always what you get
I think that when we get wrapped up in the black and white in race we forget the range of diverse identities that can exist beneath skin colors. When we start to move into discussions that transcend privilege at its shallowest form, there is so much room to explore the experiences of those that are ethnically or nationally different from each other. You may be white, but identify as Jewish or South African or Romanian, and those specific spaces of identity could be really important to you and your experience, especially if have spent a lot of time living outside of the United States. I think that it is essential to leave room for these invisible identities when meaningfully discussing race. In some of our discussion sections, these things have been brought up and shot down because of hostility and differing opinions about the values of ethnic and national experiences.
            Meet people where they’re at
I firmly believe that the minority is never responsible for the education of the majority. I understand that it is important for privileged individuals to take it upon themselves to learn about the oppressed. However, the problem is that no person is born with full knowledge of minority issues and thus, most people have something to learn about a different identity group. Thus, there is a social justice learning curve for everyone. Because of this, conversations about race specifically should be guided with understanding, patience and a consistent benefit of the doubt for others. Find out what they know, and move forward with explaining your viewpoint or experience. To begin aggressively or shoot people down doesn’t benefit anyone, and generally does more harm than good, especially in the long term.

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While reading the article Brainwashed there was one quote that stood out to me in particular. “when calculating the achievement of the ‘American Dream’ [African Americans] are still ranked at the bottom of a good list, and at the top of the bad lists.” Unfortunately, this narrative has is still a common depiction of African Americans from outside people looking in on our communities. However I personally feel like although this may ring some truth it is mostly in the perspective of the other groups looking down on the Black community. As I reflect over the last few days one specific story line has repeated itself. The white community saying that black people couldn't do xyz, then those same African Americans turn around and do exactly what others said they could not do. People said that blacks couldn't be educated but the people like WEB Dubois end up graduating from IVY league schools like Harvard University. It was said that black people could not fly planes, but the Tuskegee Airman not only flew planes in WWII but they were highly requested because they never lost anyone when they anyone when the accompanied them on missions. African Americans because citizens of the United States,  were elected to office after the Civil War, they eventually desegregated the south, and got the voting rights act passed. Now we have an African American as President of the United States of America. So although in some cases the quote above can be argued to be a true statement there is certainly another narrative that needs to be told.

However, I am not saying that there isn’t still work needed to be done, there definitely is. The reason I say that the quote above rings some truth is because as I read all three articles The Rebirth of Caste, Activism and Service-Learning: Reframing Volunteerism as Acts of Dissent,The Scorch at the Bottom of the Melting Pot the common theme that seems to be repeating itself is the idea that people do not want to change. Not only people but the social make up of our society as a whole in truth is in many ways still the same as it was during slavery and during Jim Crow.

However the reading The Rebirth of Caste  is one that really stood out to me was the argument that our society claims that it has eliminated laws like black codes, Jim Crow laws, and separate but equal these laws are still reflected in places like our incarceration system, schools, and segregated neighborhoods. Mass incarceration of African Americans is nothing new to American history. They mass incarcerated slaves in ships as they were stolen from their homeland, the mass incarcerated African Americans as they were protesting from their rights, and now we mass incarcerate African American men for any little thing. and I personally believe that White America has structured society this way to take away the black vote as much as possible. Because once you become a felon you can no longer exercise that right. So when you look at society that way it is easy to think African Americans have and always will be at the bottom on the totem pole. But on the flip side, when you look at the amazing things we have accomplished throughout history and how our resistance has made progressive change one can also argue that stagnant position of African Americans is slowly but surely changing.

It didn’t stop at the bridge.

It didn’t stop at the bridge. It DID NOT stop at the bridge. Those words have been ringing in my head since I heard them on the video earlier today at the Lowndes Interpretive Center. I had not known as much as I did about Bloody Sunday before this trip. It really moved me to be able to stand in the exact spot that it happened and to be able to march over the same bridge where it happened. From speaking with the speaker on the Footprints to Freedom tour I understood so much more about this tragic event. During this trip we have heard so much basic information about Bloody Sunday but learning from someone who was not only a part of it but could point out exactly where each thing took place was mind blowing. Walking in the same path that were walked in by those before me was so amazing. I really reflected on crossing the bridge which was one of my favorite things that I will remember about this trip because when we were at the top and could not yet see what was on the other side I could only imagine what was going through the people of Selma and everyone else in march when they crossed the bridge and saw the sea of blue watching for them. I do not know what I would think. Not knowing what would happen has to be the worse part and going into what turned out to be such a horrific event was something that no one was prepared for. Finding out that the beatings did not stop at the bridge took a toll on me. Those words were never said to me before that video and just hearing the experiences of those people who had to endure it all was beneficial to understanding everything about this event. We were standing on the church ground where the march started and eventually ended; we stood on the stairs where people were pushed down and beaten when trying to get back into the church; we crossed the bridge where Jimmie Lee Jackson was shot. We were in the presence of history. My history. Our history. Today has been the most touching day for me thus far. Today I actually felt the presence of what did happen before me. I am honored to have had this opportunity and these feelings will forever be with me.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Afro 298: 4th Blog Post

Confederate flags, oppression, segregation, dehumanization, and disrespect, those are the words that so frequently visited my mind as the bus gradually passed by the capital building in Montgomery, Alabama. Numerous times I have encountered racism at its finest, subtly and not so subtly, but what I saw at the capital building was something I had never seen nor felt before, a feeling that I could not ignore even if I tried. What I am referring to is not something that someone said to me, but rather what is considered ok in the eyes of the leaders of Alabama in 2014. What I am referring to is seeing the confederate flag numerous times inside and outside the state capital building.
            Throughout this trip I have continuously heard stories of brave individuals who took the first step of changing the evil ways of society, to make a difference in their environment when that was not the most popular choice. I have seen reenactments of Rosa Parks and her refusal to give up her seat for a white individual, I have spoken with an individual who was a part of the Freedom Riders, and the list goes on. What these selfless individuals did was phenomenal because they, along with thousands of other individuals, were able to change the minds (and hearts) of some individuals who felt blacks deserved the same rights as their white counterparts. But, seeing the confederate flag hanging on a pole outside of the capital building shows me that there are still individuals with the same mindset as the majority of the south had during the civil war. Seeing that flag hanging showed me that those in charge do not care about the feelings of those who it affected, because if they did that flag, along with the flag shown inside the building, would be removed.
What was interesting was listening to the tour guide our group was assigned during the tour of the capital. As the tour guide walked us through the capital I could the sense that the group had become more upset because the questions being asked were not being answered properly or even worse, avoided. I could tell that the group, including myself, was upset because of the justification as to why the flags still remain there today. Hearing two tour guides attempt to justify and argue why was nothing short of hearing a murderer try to justify why he killed an innocent victim. Now, this may seem like a harsh analogy, but I want you to take a second and ponder. I want you to close your eyes and imagine yourself as a black male or female back in the 50’s and 60’s, drinking from a separate (and worse) water fountain, just because of the color of your skin. I want you to imagine entering a restaurant just to be told that you cannot be served because, “We don’t serve your kind here.” I want you to imagine being in fear of your life day-by-day as you walk the streets at night as you attempt to go home from work. Now, open your eyes and try to answer this question: Why should anyone deserve to live this way? The answer is they did not, no one does.

            Seeing that flag hanging next to the American flag showed me that the leaders in this area hold the ideals of confederacy in the same realm as the truths of this great country. This needs to come to an end. I may be one person, one person who does not hold much power, one person with little to no credentials. Can you imagine if they had that same mindset? Nothing would have changed. I know that I must take a step back and look at the previous leaders who came before me who ultimately decided enough was enough. Yes, I am one person, but I will be that one person who makes this world a better place one step at a time!