After reviewing the four readings, Brainwashed, The Rebirth of Caste, Growing Inequality in the Twenty-First Century, and Activism and Service Learning: Reframing Volunteerism As Acts of Dissent, one of the readings really stood out to me and helped me obtain a better understanding of the Civil Rights Movement and why African-Americans reacted to unfair treatment and inequality in the South. The story, Brainwashed, helped me understand how strong African-Americans were during this time and why they fought so hard for their equal rights. Brainwashed told the story that low-class or low hierarchy African-Americans experienced then and that majority experience in today’s society. In the reading, it stated, “when calculating the achievement of the ‘American Dream’ we [as in people in general] are still ranked at the bottom of a good list, and at the top of the bad lists.” This made me think about the struggle that African-Americans experienced including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. King Jr. continued working for the justice of African-Americans in the South and to break the wall of segregation making an African-American (Black) citizen and Caucasian (White) citizen’s opportunity for surviving to ultimately reaching the American Dream equal. Dr. King Jr. was ranked at the bottom of a list due to the color of his skin, but as he became an emerging leader in the South, he moved to the top of a list, still remaining at the bottom of the other. Equality examples that Dr. King Jr. fought for were drinking from the same condition and quality water fountains, the same sanitary and clean restrooms that Caucasian (White) citizens were given, and even breaking the barrier of being taught by the color of your skin in a classroom where at the time education would have ultimately allowed both Caucasian and African-American citizens to become educated to acquire reaching the American Dream. What I learned while reading in-between the lines of Brainwashed was that not everything during this time period was negative or gave off a negative connotation that African-Americans would not have the same equality and rights as their Caucasian neighbors.
At this time, propaganda shared positive words, pictures, and symbols to influence, change, transform, and keep the hope alive for people and their lives, especially African-Americans. Initiatives like positive propaganda gave African-Americans hope and strength that they would overcome a time where life was difficult. If I could go back in time, I would ask an African-American, other than my grandmother who is deceased, if they felt it would have been easier if one killed themselves than to continue being mistreated, feeling worthless to society, or killed by another person. Propaganda helped others to understand the struggle that African-Americans experienced and why they bought into the idea that nothing would ever change unless people like Rosa Parks, Dr. King Jr., or the Freedom Riders took the lead to promote those to follow and fight for a change. Brainwashed helped me to better understand African slavery – African-American individuals being chained and branded, both physically and psychologically as they were treated more as if they were property than a human being, which I could not see one surviving in our society by these actions today opposed to during this specific time period. Back then, it was easy to acquire power, to hold a position, to own someone as if they were property, but in today’s society, there’s something called competition, confidence, morals, values, and determination to achieve the American Dream so race specific communities or individuals would never be looked down on again and have to relive the Civil Rights era.
Brainwashed isn’t only a catchy title, but it somewhat reflects what occurs in our society today. We as human beings are so quick and apt to segregate ourselves that we just don’t realize - we ARE SOMEWHAT reliving history that occurred through the Civil Rights era just without the signs, hose spraying, and authorities keeping African-Americans separate from Caucasians. We live in such a diverse world that it saddens me that even today, we are scared to step outside of our comfort zone and introduce ourselves to someone who we do not identify with when it comes to race, religion, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, nationality, sex, and the list goes on an on. Brainwashed talked about how advancement and achievement separated successful blacks from “disposable” black, those who simply refuse to “act right” and prosper and this is something that I see occurring on our University of Illinois campus within our African-American community which we might not know, but we are slowly reverting back to the Civil Rights era instead of advancing as we celebrate more and more anniversaries of Dr. King’s birthday, the March on Washington, the Emancipation Proclamation, and hopefully one day when society will break the foundation of segregating, or clumping together, because it feels “comfortable.” We were put on this world to feel comfortable once we have learned how to overcome feeling uncomfortable with different situations and I am still feeling uncomfortable about segregation today, especially on the University of Illinois campus as it might not be seen the way it was portrayed during the Civil Rights era, it’s still something that not only the University but our nation needs to improve.
I think we were all brainwashed one point in our lives when it came to history especially when it came down to the Civil Rights era. I still question if there was more that happened that was sugarcoated or wasn’t added to the archives of the Civil Rights era. Are we missing little parts of our history that could build the bridge across the river to help future generations better understand this time in history? Is all the history presented or available to us? One thing that I have learned from this reading is that propaganda contributed to brainwashing of individuals and it still is an ongoing cycle today as we propaganda might not be evident, but the thousands of news sources that we have available that report stories are our propaganda today and it’s our job to weed out what’s reliable and what’s not. I wanted to share the type of propaganda there were and examples from the Civil Rights era and please comment how you feel about how the Civil Rights era was portrayed.
- The Big Lie – the repeated and consistent articulation of a partial, distorted, or manufactured “truth.” Example: Blacks are angry, dangerous, unemployable, and addicted to welfare.
- Appeal to Fear – the purposeful effort to instill apprehension and panic. Example: Blacks are revolutionary communists. They’re moving too fast and want too much at once. Black power actually means race war.
- Appeal to Prejudice – attaching a value or moral label to flawed but well-established perceptions. Example: Whites have earned economic and social privilege through hard work, discipline, high morals, and family values.
- Stereotyping – exaggerating established perceptions of physical or cultural traits, attaching negative attributes to an entire group. Example: Blacks are angry, impatient, and murderers.
How does this leave you feeling about how easily propaganda can persuade you into going along with a story?