Thursday, April 24, 2008

BDSMN - Epilogue

You may respond to the following or a quotation of your choice:

In the epilogue Tyson says, "we want to transcend our history without actually confronting it" (318). What does this mean? How is a national confrontation of our history possible? What prevents this catharsis? What is to be gained from such a process?
Later Tyson comments, "America owes a debt that no one can pay, and yet it probably remains what Lincoln called 'the last, best hope' of human freedom.... And the enduring chasm of race is still with us, in some ways wider than ever." (320). How do you reconcile these statements? Tyson wrote his exporation before Barack Obama (and Reverend Wright) became figures of wide, national prominence. Like Tyson, Obama (both Barack and Michelle) have invoked the notion of hope. How do you understand hope in the context of United States - both domestically and internationally?


Maddie said...

It seems as though we always try to forget the past. People often times do not realize that if we do not deal with bad events that are happening, they will either repeat themselves, or something similar will repeat in the future. It would be very difficult for such a large group, such as a nation, to confront these problems, because it would be so hard to get everyone to agree. It is difficult for individuals to acknowledge when they have done something wrong, so it would be even more difficult for a nation to realize their actions. White people in the south say how great life is now and would never admit to how they treated slaves in the past.

Melanie said...

Maddy makes a very good point that it is "difficult for a large group, such as a nation, to confront" problems. And so, is it possible for a nation to overcome problems? And in this case, is it possible for us, as the United States, to overcome the racial divides that still exist in our nation?

I believe that it is utterly impossible for a nation as a whole to completely overcome something in the past. I believe that there are ways to rise above bad decisions and actions made in the past, but there is never going to be a way that such a large group of people can totally overcome. This is because there will always be people who will stand by their "different" opinion. This does not only reflect upon racism within our nation, but also upon other groups of people who are frequently oppressed (based on religion, economic status, behavior, etc.) So, if I have come to the decision that as a nation we can rise above what we did, but never fully surmount it, then how far can we rise? Have we risen as far as we possibly can?

To respond to Ms. Schager's questions, I believe that it is very important to understand what Tyson means when he says, "we want to transcend our history without actually confronting it," (318). After I brought this up in our quarter group discussion today, we decided that by not putting the blame upon themselves, a community will never be able to rise above past events. As I mentioned earlier, I believe that it is impossible for a group as large as a nation to totally surmount and overcome a past event, but they can surely improve their situation and begin to rise above the conflict. Just to further express my point, Tyson says, "[w]hat the advocates of our dangerous and deepening social amnesia don't understand is how deeply the past holds the future in its grip--even, and perhaps especially, when it remains unacknowledged," (307). Thus, we learn that the future is so deeply rooted in the past, and thus if the people do not learn from their mistakes and inappropriate actions, then life in the future will not improve and further succeed. However, we must still remind ourselves that we must not accept everyone in such a large community to do this. For example, there are still white men down South who admit that slavery was never and issue and should still not be an issue. However, people are allowed to think freely, and thus they will be the minority of people within our nation who will hold us back as we try to proceed into a more equal and understanding society. It is also important when Tyson says, "The past is never dead. It isn't even the past," (321). This shows that the past will never be dead, for we can always learn from the past, whether it is our mistakes that we made in the past or rather the success that we had in the past. Thus, as a community we must learn from our mistakes and rise above our past. We must face the fact that we will never fully surmount our past, simply because we are such a large group. However, I am still confused as to how far we have come from racial inequality, and if we can proceed any further towards equality. Because, although many of us want true equality between all people, we must realize that it is simply impossible.

PimpMasterFlex said...

I really feel that when looking back on the past and thinking about/reflecting on all the areas in which mistakes have been made, everyone should be ten times smarter then their prior counterparts. This is because if we study and try to comprehend the thousands of situations that resemble ones in the present, we almost have a guideline for what has occurred, why it occurred and how it occurred. This, to me, explains why racism that involved Jim Crow laws and public lynching is mostly non-existent. However the underlying superiority feelings that are present in many of us still linger. I feel most people do not even recognize these feelings when they happen at all. My old soccer coach, an African-American male, who has earned a college degree and has a wife and two kids tells me many stories of times when he has gone into stores in predominantly white neighborhoods and women will secure their purses. These types of reflexes are inexcusable yet they happen all the time.
I feel like in order to eradicate these irrational thoughts/feelings completely the past must be confronted head on. We must acknowledge what happened and discuss why we have had such feelings in order to realize how ignorant they really are. This is by no means an easy task and so may feel it is impossible. I think many can come to terms with the reasons for their underlying racism and become better people for it but I also agree with the fact that there will always be some lingering racism that may in fact be impossible to leave behind.
If we can rise above the notable acts of racism in the past that may only prove to be the beginning as we attack the minor thoughts and feelings that are not as clear.

Mac said...

Like pimpmasterflex, aka Jack, said, there is no way to change the past, but in order to improve the present we need to confront the past "head on." When Tyson says "we want to transcend our history without actually confronting it" (318, it really hits home the point that in order to improve racism today we need to confront the past. We cannot do what they did in BDSMN and just destroy all records of what happen and just pretend what nothing ever went down. We need to admit to the wrongs and to then move on from there. I think that we all know the old saying, two wrongs don's make a right, and this can be shown in BDSMN.
As a responce to the next statement, I believe that Obama has given hope to the people both domestically and internationaly, because it shows all people that you can never count out the minorities out and that there will always be a way for someone of a minority to do something good in the world. Obama is trying to do something that no one has ever done before was he tries to become the first black president. THe other democrat is another minority figure and she also has sparked hope for all the women of the world. Hilary Clinton is trying to become the first woman president and she has many supporers while she gives hope to another group of people.

Lexa said...

I agree with Mel when she says that "it is utterly impossible for a nation as a whole to completely overcome something in the past." If it is possible, the nation is going about it in the wrong way, trying to "transcend our history without actually confronting it" (Tyson 318). In order for national confrontation of this history to occur, there would have to be changes across the nation that many people would object to. It would require a shift so that blacks and whites were actually equal. Many people would highly object to the restructuring of the economy to support the equality of blacks and whites. However, this is what would have to happen. People don't want to acknowledge the fact that in order to completely overcome the past, they would have to confront it, and this confrontation would mean giving up a lot. The greed that many upper class whites exhibit prevents the catharsis of the nation. Until blacks and whites are equal, I don't think that whites will ever be completely guilt-ridden.

When Tyson comments that "the enduring chasm of race is still with us, in some ways wider than ever," he is partially addressing the fact that racist people from when he was a boy are still around and still have the same views. However, a new factor has introduced itself in today's society, which Tyson is probably referring to when he says that the separation between races is wider than ever. This new mentality is what someone referred to in class as "reverse racism." It is the phenomenon that has taken place now that whites feel the need to make up for their former treatment of blacks. Whites feel guilty about the past, so now they go to inordinate ends to show their anti-racism. For example, if I say "I don't like Billy," in reference to a white kid, no one will think anything of it. But, if I say "I don't like Lucy," in reference to a black girl, then someone might respond "That's not nice." People respond more to criticism of blacks than criticism of whites, making the chasm still as wide as it was once. The enduring split between blacks and whites can only be mended by making the two races completely equal, and still, racism would persist in the country.

Shannon Walsh said...

To be honest, I am quite skeptical as to whether or not our country will ever reach a point of racial equality. I think that no matter where we go or who we are with, there will always be some degree of discrimination or racial bias. I think Lexa brings up a very interesting point about how if she commented on not liking someone to a black person over a white person, there would be more of a response in reference to the black person just because they are black. I mean, we're all different. Some people are girls, others are boys, some people have blond hair, others have red; some people have six toes for goodness sakes, and some people just have five; some people have two differetn colored eyes; some people have black skin while others have white- I don't understand why it is so difficult for the world to see that skin color is JUST ANOTHER DIFFERENCE among all the infinite differences between people in our world. It's a difference, but so what?

To be honest, I have absolutely no idea how to get to a point of racial equality in America. All I can say is that we cannot ignore the past, just like Maddie said. The importance of history is one thing- to learn. What we have done in the past (whether it is good or bad) can help us learn how to create a better future. In order to become equal, we must go back in history and analyze WHY there was (and is) racial discrimination. But can this question be answered?

Erica said...

I agree with what Shannon was saying about how it is nearly impossible to achieve racial equality. Racial equality will never be accomplished unless the issue is confronted head on. For instance when Tyson said, "we want to transcend our history without actually confronting it" (318). In my opinion this means that people have a difficult time dealing with the tough issues facing them, consequently they choose to ignore them. In BDSMN, the entire town of Oxford tried to erase part of their history that they weren't particularly proud of, Henry Marrow's murder trial. Everyone that Tyson asked about the trial and the events surrounding it told him not to look into it because it would bring up bad feelings from the past. Until people start coming to terms with their past and somehow face their mistakes, equality will never be achieved. If the United States as a whole can accept the fact that slavery was a part of our history that cannot be ignored, then racial equality has the potential to be achieved. The first step in confronting a problem is acknowledgement. We cannot learn from our mistakes if we don’t understand what we did wrong.

Can slavery and racial inequality ever be acknowledged by everyone in the U.S.? In order to confront an issue of the past or present, everyone has to understand that the problem actually exists. It is nearly impossible to get such a large number of people to agree on a specific issue, so that makes it extremely difficult to confront a problem.

In response to Shannon's question, I think that it is human nature to crave superiority and to try to group ourselves according to our appearances. Although, it is extremely difficult to discern why people are so easily prejudiced and degrade others in specific situations. There have always been differences that distinguish one person from another, causing prejudice and preconceived stereotypes to form. Do you think that prejudice can ever be eliminated? Is it possible to confront the past as a nation?

Casey said...

I think that Tyson's statement, "we want to transcend our history without actually confronting it," can be interpreted on a very literal level.
The majority of the citizens in the U.S. are not discussing race relations on a blog every night. They are trying to put food on the table and take care of their family.
This is why our country is having so much trouble coming to terms with it's racist past and present. Our people as a whole don't need to think about it so they don't.
White people are not reminded of their race everyday and many whites live in white communities where they are not forced to interact with people of other races.
Since this is what the majority of the country seems like to me, and the majority is what brings serious change and reform, it doesn't seem like we're going anywhere fast.

Charlotte said...

I agree with Maddie when she says that we always try to forget the past. If we just forget about something it is never going to go away and it will never be fixed. We can not act like racsim is completely gone and we are all treated like equals, becuase it isn't. On pg 318 it states, "We cannot adress the plcae we find ourselves becuase we will not acknowledge the road that brought us here." This exactly what we are doing, we are not attempting to fix this problem because we don't want to remeber what horrible things happened. We don't want to have to reflect of what happened in order to start change, but for a real change to start we have to.
It doesn't seem that racism has fully been eliminated when we are a community of mostly whites and there is a community of mostly African-Americans a few minutes away. When we are not forced to interact with different races every day we don't even think about it. Could this be considered another form of racism? If so, we are just adding o the problem and not helping fix it at all.

Laura said...

When Tyson writes, "we want to transcend our history without actually confronting it" (318). I feel that it shows how people want to rise above history and end racism, however it is not an easy thing to do, and is certainly not easy for a collective nation to do. People hope that one day there will be equality, but how can one possibly ‘transcend history’ without confronting it? For any change to occur people must confront the initial problem in order to see how they can change. As to the question, “How is a national confrontation of our history possible?” I feel that as a collective nation a confrontation is not possible. Many of you have pointed this out, and I agree, I feel that there will never be a time when the whole nation is willing to admit there is a problem and want to work together to change. There will always be a group that like the way society is run now. As Shannon said, “I think that no matter where we go or who we are with, there will always be some degree of discrimination or racial bias.” I totally agree with this statement even if the whole nation could realize the mistakes of the past I feel that there will always be people who are oppressed and discriminated against. Even in today’s world, as Lexi told the story in class the other day about her instance at Stop and Shop, racial and ethnic discrimination is still a huge presence in our society today. This all ties back in with my initial thought, people want to create change, but no one is willing to take the lead with the change – perhaps Obama will be that leader.

Jupican said...

When those most affected don't grieve and relieve them of the feelings, they malign and snowball into beliefs that prove the affected person right to make they feel better about an incident.
I do agree that recognition and exploration of previous events are significant. I notice that these events are painful and deeply troubling to those affected (all degrees).
But by not doing diddly, the government and people with money and power make blacks believe white people with those attributes are racist because of their lack of involvement. The people with these attribute need to change themselves and become more human, more humane. America is full of material and false frills, race is just one of them-it is a color and has no real value in comparison to a living breathing person it encases. I think if we displayed less care on standards of the cover of a person and more of the energy a person gives off, I believe that it is possible to confront the problems and relate them to what will be done, and not what was done.
Also about confronting, to me it seems the blacks are facing the issues head-on and pushing forward and looking for "now" change, or at least they were in Tyson's time. The government says speeches and gives a month for "Black History"; they are just putting a title on an empty folder. They are reading history books instead of writing new ones; the past is the past and by dwelling on the events they don't focus on what can be done. I think the history month was partly given to relieve some of the resentment of the blacks because of past pushing under the rug treatment. They also get a holiday. But in the end, if I were a black person I much rather live in a place where people don’t apologize and pity me for the crimes against my ancestors (not in a callous way) , I would just be more concerned with life and 3-D things that are moving at this moment. My neighborhood stability is much more of a concern (!). What happened then was then, no longer breathing, what is happening now can feel and can breath. The atrocities of today should be publicized even more; the people of the now are living and are perishing. If the government spent the same time on talking about the race and inequalities of today as they did on what once happened, physical change is a possibility. To my knowledge, as of now injustices can’t be solved- they are further making people feel bad because they don’t have working time machines. There would be a greater response and difference in American society if focus was in perspective. In order to make real change the government, and [some] people have to start thinking about bettering the existence of now, and not try to justify and paste over events. What happened happened, but is it happening now?? If so, what they have done hasn’t worked-they need to give the world of present reality a try.

Annie said...

I think we're starting to ask ourselves what exactly equality means. Lexa brought up the interesting point that people are starting to feel a need to be unnecessarily compassionate to blacks. Tyson said that he believes, "Most of us would rather claim to have always been perfect than admit how much we have grown" (176), which I find completely applicable to this situation. It's as if people think that if they are completely good to blacks now, then nothing in the past happened, and we can just transcend time. However, this brings about a whole new species of inequality. It's, once again, not seeing people for what they are, but rather for their skin color. If someone is obnoxious, they should be named thus, regardless of skin color. Furthermore, it gives people an excuse to be underhandedly racist. As long as people put up a friendly, complimentary front towards blacks, they can push blacks into unsatisfactory school systems. Then it becomes harder to identify the racism because people are seemingly kind towards the blacks. It seems, as a population, people are almost turning into the moderate racists that MLK Jr. defined as such a threat.

Jupican brought up Black History Month. To me, this is a perfect example of blatant racism that is being disguised as a gift to the Black population. It is saying that Blacks aren't a part of American history, that what we learn about 11 months of the year is white, true history, and blacks only deserve one month of acknowledgment. It's completely condescending! I read an article about two years ago in which Morgan Freeman denounced Black History Month. He said, "I don't want a black history month. Black history is American history" ( We went on to say that the only way to end racism is to stop talking about it. He requests that everyone stops calling him a black man, and he'll stop calling people white. I completely agree. The only way to end racism is to face it, acknowledge that it's a horror of our past, accept what happened and stop trying to makes amends for it, and drop the labels.

Scott said...


But wouldn’t dropping the labels be tantamount to collectively ignoring the 800 pound gorilla sitting in the corner? If we stop talking about race entirely, it doesn’t mean that race-based issues will go away—likely, they’ll fester and pus up to the point that we can’t ignore them any longer. African-Americans are poorer, much less well educated, have much worse health care, have a lower life expectancy, are infinitely more likely to be involved in criminal activity (infinitely was hyperbole; the actual figure is a mere four hundred percent) and are often brought up in “de-industrialized urban wastelands” from which escape is impossible. Never mind that even if this were all fixed—even if an alien space bat decided to magically make blacks and whites truly equal—there would still be the fact that African-Americans were held in bondage for hundreds of years.

History gives very few examples of ethnic groups which were once disadvantaged becoming absolutely equal. The oppression of Copts in Egypt is approaching its 1400th birthday. China’s ethnic minorities are just as powerless now as they were in the 8th century (with the notable exception of the Manchu). The Roma have been despised and disadvantaged in Europe since before Charlemagne. The Ainu have been shoehorned into obedience to the Japanese for as long as the Japanese have dominated Japan. The list is probably endless…

My point is that this problem won’t go away in a century or two, much less a decade or two. There is no way that we can “accept what happened and stop trying to makes amends for it, and drop the labels.” What happened will always be with us so long as ‘the system’ continues to unknowingly favor whites because they’re born with better pre-natal care and are brought up with better education. Even if racism dies a protracted and unlamented death, what it did in the preceding centuries will always reverberate downwards. Ultimately, I think that any vision of a light at the end of the tunnel—to use an extremely unfortunate choice of words, a lasting solution—is a pipe dream. At best, the lighting in the tunnel will gradually grow lighter, until eventually it seems to be almost as bright as the outside.

Scott said...

Oh, and on the Black History Month thing:

I think congress should be slapped on the side of the head for its moronic but politically correct quest to fill every day, week, month and year with holidays like “insert obscure profession here” day and “insert ethnic group here” history month/week. However, just because our legislators have decreed something does not make it true. Such efforts amount to nothing more than vote-courting in response to organized pressure groups. Ultimately, I don’t think that the decree of a black history month (with the unfortunate corollary that everything else is white history month) should be taken seriously.

Melanie said...

Scott, I very much agree with what you wrote. I also believe that the problem of racism within our nation (and within other nations as well - scott gave some examples) is not going to go away any time soon. makes an interesting point on the topic of racial inequality in America. It states that, "All public discourse on race today is locked into this rigid logic. Any explanation for black failure that does not depend on White wickedness threatens to veer off into the forbidden territory of racial differences. Thus, even if today's Whites can find in their hearts no desire to oppress blacks, yesterday's Whites must have oppressed them. If Whites do not consciously oppress blacks, they must oppress them Unconsciously. If no obviously racist individuals can be identified, then societal institutions must be racist. Or, since blacks are failing so terribly in America, there simply must be millions of White people we do not know about, who are working day and night to keep blacks in misery. The dogma of racial equality leaves no room for an explanation of black failure that is not, in some fashion, an indictment of White people," ( This quote brings up the fact that whenever African Americans in the United States are faced with a certain difficulty/conflict, we are always going to look back to our history and blame it on the white people of our nation. Thus, to add onto what Scott was getting at, white people are never going to rid themselves of the burden of racism, since history can never be erased. also states, "Since we are required to believe that the only explanation for non-White failure is White racism, every time a non-White is poor, commits a crime, goes on welfare, or takes drugs, White society stands accused of yet another act of racism. All failure or misbehavior by non-Whites is standing proof that White society is riddled with hatred and bigotry. For precisely so long as non-Whites fail to succeed in life at exactly the same level as Whites, Whites will be, by definition, thwarting and oppressing them," ( And now, after taking these thoughts into consideration, I question what the people of the United States and the people of the world view the cause of white conflict/difficulty. If whites are to be blamed for black failure (due to history and the fact that racism is certainly not absent from out nation), then who is to the blamed when whites are faced with difficulty and conflict. Of course white men and women are faced with conflict on a daily basis, but the thought of it being due to unequal treatment from a person of dark skin is highly unlikely. Thus, to whomever is to respond to this comment, can you find any time in history where white inequality has been blamed on blacks?

Jordan said...

When Tyson says "we want to transcend our history without actually confronting it" (318). I think this can pretty much be considered as a motto for how we as Americans, no matter what society we are in, face our problems. I think that Tyson is trying to portray that when humans know or realize that they will have a difficult time dealing with a problem in their life, they many times choose to ignore it rather than actually confronting it. This exmplains why it is so challenging to achieve racial equality. If people see the choice of treating everyone equally or just doing the easy thing and going along with what everyone else is doing, they are most likely going to choose the easy one and just fall back into the routine that everyone around them seems to accept. This idea is clearly portrayed in Blood Done Sign My Name when rather than answering Tyson's questions about the tragedy from the past, they tell him that it would be best not to talk about it becuase it would bring up terrible feelings from the past. So until everyone learned to confront their problems and realize their mistakes, racial equality will never be achieved.

Jenny said...

everyone has very valid points, but to bounce off of a couple of them, especially the points on either not addressing race and how to solve racial tensions here in America. Jordan said that until we all lean to confront our problems we will never have racial equality between blacks and whites. while reading through peoples previous comments i kept thinking about how in other countries there have been similar issues, like what Scott pointed out. From one of the articles "Best of Friends, Worlds Apart" which was from the website we had to choose an article to read from, it discussed how to very best friends, one black and the other white, lived united in Cuba until they came to America, where race became an issue. Something interesting was said..."It is not that, growing up in Cuba's mix of black and white, they were unaware of their difference in color. Fidel Castro may have decreed an end to racism in Cuba, but that does not mean racism has simply gone away. Still, color was not what defined them. Nationality, they had been taught, meant far more than race. They felt, above all, Cuban."
could this help in the struggle to end racial tension? even under a dictator they felt united as one people, not defined by how much melanin is in their skin, they stopped pretending like they didn't see the difference, but they stopped separating themselves by it. It all goes back to those identity papers at the beginning of the year and when we had to brainstorm many of you wrote "i am a white girl/boy.." somewhere in that list of definitions for yourself? its not like people can pretend that integration made everyone colorblind, if anything it brought the vivid differences straight to the front line. it is also how in savage inequalities a young boy pointed out..."Victor Acosta and eight other boys and girls meet with me in the freshman counselors' office. They talk about "the table of brotherhood'-the words of Dr. King that we have heard recited by the theater class upstairs.
"We are not yet seated at that table," Victor says.
"The table is set but no one's in the chairs,'" when are we going to sit down? when is everyone, every American, going to sit down? stop transcending and let dinner be served.

Scott said...

Melanie: A lot of what that article you quoted seemed to be driving is wonderfully reflected in a piece in the Atlantic Monthly on Bill Cosby entitled “This is How We Lost to the White Man” (which can be found at It’s an excellent article which I strongly recommend. Its main theme is Bill Cosby’s argument that the black community needs to help itself, rather than demand reparations and assistance from others. It has a plethora of wonderful quotes. Among my favorites are:

“Cosby had come to Detroit aiming to grab the city’s black men by their collars and shake them out of the torpor that has left so many of them—like so many of their peers across the country—undereducated, over-incarcerated, and underrepresented in the ranks of active fathers,”

And: “Cosby has been telling thousands of black Americans that racism in America is omnipresent but that it can’t be an excuse to stop striving. As Cosby sees it, the antidote to racism is not rallies, protests, or pleas, but strong families and communities. Instead of focusing on some abstract notion of equality, he argues, blacks need to cleanse their culture, embrace personal responsibility, and reclaim the traditions that fortified them in the past.”

Both quotes blame the blacks themselves, not the “omnipresent” racism, for their current economic and social condition. The first calls the current state of the African-American community “torpor”; the second demands that blacks cleanse their culture, embrace personal responsibility, and reclaim the traditions that fortified them in the past.” In both cases, Cosby blames the black community for its own state, but also offers a message of hope—we dug ourselves into this hole, and we can climb out.

But it remains interesting to note that if those comments came from a white man the result would be a media circus of epic proportions. Defensiveness and mutual suspicion still defines our national discourse on race. So long as it does (which, given the history involved, will likely be forever) progress will only come slowly and painfully. A sudden realization in everyone’s mind that racism needs to be confronted would help things along, but a) that’s probably not going to happen and b) even if it did—and especially if it doesn’t—the African-American community will have to be the entity which instigates the change.

Maanvi said...

I don't agree with the idea that the blacks have to be the ones to initiate change. History does not just belong to the blacks, it is a combined experience of the whites and the blacks. Both need to be participants in beginning the process of healing. I think racism continues in society because blacks are still perceived as inferior and like in Jack's story, people still clutch their purses as a black person walks by. It's time that people start changing the way they think. In terms of the quote we're discussing, as a nation, we refuse to look back on what has happened and deal with those emotions. When Tyson went back to his home to interview people, he encountered the same problem. No one was willing to open up. How do we overcome problems that we are not willing to acknowledge? Like Casey said, we don't think about these things everyday because we don't have to. A majority of the United States is in the middle class, doing just fine. It's easy for us to become oblivious to what's still going on in the world. However, I think that Obama is bringing these issues to the forefront of America’s problems. But once again like Casey said, if the majority doesn't even think about it, where does that leave us?

Ali said...

Tyson states, "And the enduring chasm of race is still with us, in some ways wider than ever." (320). When he says that the race issue in our country is 'wider than ever', I think that this stems from the fact that we are not "actually confronting our history", we just want to "transcend it" and have it go away without any effort.
When Tyson says, "we want to transcend our history without actually confronting it" (318), this brings up the idea of human nature. It is the dark side of human nature for people to want to aggregate resources for themselves and move ahead, and if that means putting down and degrading others, so be it. It comes down to the basics of natural selection: "survival of the fittest". People will always try to get ahead and survive better than the others. It is not only race that marks the divisions in our society, but also attributes like gender and religion. For instance, women couldn't vote for a long time and today, many women don't earn as much money as men do, which demonstrates men as surviving better in the workplace. For religion, it was a big deal for John F. Kennedy to run for President as a Catholic, and for Joseph Lieberman to run for Vice President as a Jew. The way to overcome our history and the issues in present day society and this dark side of human nature is to directly confront and discuss these topics. This idea was the basis for Obama's speech on race and his call for a "national conversation" on race. In his speech on March 18, he discusses how for every past election, people have focused on and scrutinized things that sure, need to be addressed, but are insignificant in relation to the issues that have been ignored for many, many years. "In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination - and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past - are real and must be addressed. Not just with words, but with deeds" (Remarks of Senator Barack Obama: 'A More Perfect Union'). What Obama is saying, that we need to acknowledge, talk, and act, is part of the process of fixing the wrongs of our history. I believe that these ideas that he has put forth has invoked the notion of hope in people. By Obama specifically stating that we need to directly address the issue of race is the first stepping stone in truly overcoming the issue. In any case of a problem, big or small, the only way to get past it and move on is to face it head on. You're never going to reconcile your problems if you keep on avoiding them, because they will always be there, hidden, but still existing, and ready to spring back up at any moment.

Ali said...

In addition, that process of catharasis where we would address our issues directly also brings up more issues: where do we go from there? Sure on paper, we can say that we would make amends... but who would decide what those amends would be and how they would be brought about? And there are many people who would probably argue about who the amends should be made to. Even despite THESE issues, I agree with the fact that our country needs to face our past and move on, which includes making amends.

Natasha Gabbay said...

Pimpmasterflex makes a really good connection to Tyson's point that "we want to transcend our history without actually confronting it," (318). Pimpmasterflex said that
"the underlying superiority feelings that are present in many of us still linger. I feel most people do not even recognize these feelings when they happen at all." And I really agree that rather than trying to confront our American history of treating African Americans as inferior, we just try and ignore it. By supressing the superiority complex that ran this country for centuries, whites are "trancending" history, but also are creating new generations who are ignorant to any issues.

In the Washington D.C. chapter of Savage Inequalities, Jonathan Kozel makes the point that whites are giving their children "uncontaminated satisfaction in their victories. Their children learn to shut from the mind the possibility that they are winners in an unfair race, and they seldom let themselves lose sleep about the losers." I feel that this method of overcoming history will just return America to a state in which Whites look at being superior to other races as the norm

Meg said...

I agree with Natasha's point that "By suppressing the superiority complex that ran this country for centuries, whites are "transcending" history, but also are creating new generations who are ignorant to any issues". In school, we have all learned about Dr. King and his efforts to gain racial equality, but we are also quite frequently taught that we have made great progress and that many of the racial tensions in our society have been solved. However this is clearly not the case. There are still many problems with people feeling they are superior to other races as can be seen in the conversation between Jonathan Kozel and Samantha, a black girl that lives in East St. Louis. He asked her "What would happen if the government decided that the students in a nearby town like Fair view Heights and the students here in East St. Louis had to go to school together next September?"
Samantha: "The buses going to Fairview Heights would all be full. The buses coming to East St. Louis would be empty."
"What if East St. Louis had the very best computer classes in the state-and if there were no computer classes in the school of Fairview Heights?"
"The buses coming here," she says, "would still be empty" (Kozel). The children who are victims of this racism recognize it. They realize that even if they were in an equal situation to their white counterparts in another town, the white kids would still not want to be with them. Even if the white kids were never directly taught by their parents that whites are superior to blacks, the message clearly ends up getting through to them in more subtle ways. This is why we cannot forget the past and it is impossible to "transcend" race without acknowledging past racial issues and injustices that whites have committed because of racial differences. Progress will never be made, if we cannot recognize our own past mistakes.

Caroline said...

I agree with Meg in that it is imperative that we observe and recognize our past mistakes in order for us to move forward and to achieve true progression. But I also agree with Natasha, who stated that there is a definite “superiority complex” in this country that has been suppressed and frankly brushed off. I also think that if these subliminal beliefs continue to be avoided, then it will reap further conflict and progress will never be made. For example, it’s like in Tyson’s epilogue where he takes his group to visit the Destrehan Plantation and there was absolutely no mention of the slavery and intense injustice that had occurred there. All this achieved was irritation, confusion, and anger in the students who knew better. It seemed almost silly and juvenile that the Plantation chose not to acknowledge their past with even a plaque or just a comment. This goes to show that history cannot be transcended or forgotten, because even if one chooses not to think about it, it still exists.

Annie said...

Scott: In response to your response to my original post, I basically agree with you. I said the only way for racism to be eliminated is to “accept what happened and stop trying to makes amends for it, and drop the labels,” and I stand by that statement. However, I do not think that it’s necessarily realistic. As I said earlier in that post, people don’t want to admit that they were ever at fault, making it impossible to confront the past and accept it. I was merely stating that if people want to make genuine strides, the way to do it would be to “accept what happened and stop trying to makes amends for it, and drop the labels.” However, I do not think that people want to make significant strides because it would mean relinquishing power, something that I don’t feel those in charge are open to. As Ali said, (and Thomas Malthus would agree), natural laws apply to humans’ social world as well. It is “survival of the fittest.” Oppressing certain groups keeps others in power, allowing them to thrive. For an economy to flourish, some must flounder.

The whole concept of Social Darwinism that I was alluding to instigates a new problem. One of racisms driving forces is that people don’t want to be equal. Many people want stratification so that they can be at the top of the social ladder, something that’s impossible when all people are equal. Unfortunately, it seems groups are fighting to be at the top instead of individuals. As Natasha was saying, today, whites still, on some subconscious (or in many cases, very conscious) level, don’t want blacks to be equal because it would mean that they had less power. Because Blacks have been so oppressed, many of them do not truly want equality, either. They want everything whites have, they want to be at the top of the social hierarchy, but not necessarily be a unified group of all races. In the story “the Minority Quarterback” from the website “Race in America” that Schager assigned, a white youth, who was a perfectly open-minded, kind individual, was thrust into a black community. His black class mates would not endure him. They didn’t want equality; they wanted revenge, and they wanted to oppress someone that, in their minds, represented everyone that was oppressing them. As someone in my English class wrote the other day, “Struggle against tyranny is the struggle for the power to tyrannize.” Tyson said it, as well; equality can’t be achieved by blacks trying to take what whites have, it can only be achieved by working together.

Chris said...

I don't necessarily agree with the statement that racism won't go away any time soon. Look at the improvements that have been within the last 60 or 70 years. When the African-American people, along with help from the whites began to initiate change, the situations improved. Although many whites chose to ignore the laws and kill or hurt black people, many others became more tolerant. With each generation, racism becomes less and less of a factor. As Scott mentioned, black people still do have a disadvantage to whites in their lifestyle, but, this is also something that has to be slowly worked out of American Culture. Although we need to confront our history, it doesn't mean we have to feel bad about something that we didn't do. We need to worry about issues today and look at how to improve the future rather than try to make amends for the past. We don't need to help the conditions of black people as repayment for the past, we need to do it to improve our country.

Josh said...

In the epilogue Tyson says, "we want to transcend our history without actually confronting it" (318). By saying this, Tyson can mean a whole bunch of things, but in my eyes i feel that he is calling the whole nation cowardly. That so manythings have happened in our nation's history (in this case, segregation and racism), and that when people think about it they just react as "oh, no! that happened???"instead of stepping up to what people have done and taken part in, citizens would rather just be like, yea ok that happened. lets forgive and forget and move one because they dont want to be reminded of what they started or took place in. As far as a national confrontation, it is more than possible. it is immenent. it has to happen for our country to come clean and for us to legitimately trancend our history.. but after confronting it.

Aaron said...

I agree with everyone else that Tyson is saying basically that this country wants to move on from the past and improve, but no one is willing to stare the horrendous episodes of the past directly in the eye. The fact is that we have no other choice but to just examine what occured, learn from it, and make the future more promising. A problem is: Who wants to take responsibility for such terrible actions?

Very few whites who lynched black people in the time of Jim Crow are still alive today. Many people just assume that everythnig is perfect today, and everyone can just live in perfect harmony. This is not the case. Perhaps ignorance also plays a part in this. As we have discussed in class, racism is still around today. While it is not as blatant, it certainly exists. We may not see these things that much in Westport though.

Another issue with confronting the past is that many Americans pride themselves on living in a place where there are ideals such as equality, liberty, and the Bill of Rights. Things such as slavery, lynchings, and the Ku Klux Klan are the exact opposite of these ideals that we hold so sacred. Immigrants thought that this was the golden land where dreams come true. Americans like that people think that way. Confronting the past means admitting that we betrayed our own laws and ideals. No one wants to do that.

This country has not totally neglected the past. It is not like we take Jim Crow and slavery out of textbooks. The knowledge is out there, but no one has ever really taken responsibilty or apologized or tried to see how America came to the way it was. This does not mean that the government should form a letter to send to every black person in America. It means trying to see what occured and make the present better for the future. I don't necessarily think, however, that we need to "come clean" as Josh said though. I somewhat agree with him and understand what he is saying, but this nation has done quite well for itself in the last several decades, and we can never really completely transcend our history.

There is always hope with regard to ending racism and making everything right. The problem is, this is easier said than done. Hate and prejudice can never be taken out of this world. War and murder will never end. We can try and lessen the frequency of it though and educate people.

One thing I have noticed is that many people are making America out to be a bad place. America is not a bad place. We represent hope to many people. There is democracy, there is choice, there is the First Amendment, etc. There can never be a perfect place, but America is not just a bunch of racists. We should confront our past and recognize that errible events occured, but there were many good things done as well. There is more equality today, and I beleive things will get better over time. There is definitely hope.

That's all I got at the moment.

Alan said...

Tyson's quote, "America owes a debt that no one can pay," ties in with the Obama Bargain. Whites are trying to make up for past racism through supporting Obama's campaign. They think that this will make up for centuries of oppression, but of course this is absurd. Yes, a national confrontation of our history is impossible but the "Obama Bargain" is one way whites are trying to accomplish this. By giving them a black president, some whites feel as if their burden is lifted. It is reasurring that whites are trying, but what they don't realize is that this is not good enough. Racism will continue for centuries to come as a part of American culture. The debt can never be repayed.

Jupican said...

I posted earlier, but I came across an interesting and inspiring e-mail about what is going on in popular African American culture. From a speech of Bill Cosby, If anyone is still interested:

Subject: Here's the guy that should be our first black president

'They're standing on the corner and they can't speak English. I can't even talk the way these people talk:

Why you ain't,

Where you is,

What he drive,

Where he stay,

Where he work,

Who you be...

And I blamed the kid until I heard the mother talk.

And then I heard the father talk.

Everybody knows it's important to speak English except these knuckleheads. You can't be a doctor with that kind of crap coming out of your mouth.

In fact, you will never get any kind of job making a decent living. People marched and were hit in the face with rocks to get an education, and now we've got these knuckleheads walking around. The lower economic people are not holding up their end in this deal.

These people are not parenting. They are buying things for kids. $500 sneakers for what??

And they won't spend $200 for Hooked on Phonics.

I am talking about these people who cry when their son is standing there in an orange suit. Where were you when he was 2? Where were you when he was 12? Where were you when he was 18 and how come you didn't know that he had a pistol?

And where is the father? Or who is his father?

People putting their clothes on backward:

Isn't that a sign of something gone wrong?

People with their hats on backward, pants down around the crack, isn't that a sign of something?

Or are you waiting for Jesus to pull his pants up?

Isn't it a sign of something when she has her dress all the way up and got all type of needles [piercing] going through her body? What part of Africa did this come from

We are not Africans. Those people are not Africans; they don't know a thing about Africa.

With names like Shaniqua, Taliqua and Mohammed and all of that crap, and all of them are in jail.

Brown or black versus the Board of Education is no longer the white person's problem.

We have got to take the neighborhood back.

People used to be ashamed. Today a woman has eight children with eight different 'husbands' -- or men or whatever you call them now.

We have millionaire football players who cannot read.

We have million-dollar basketball players who can't write two paragraphs. We, as black folks have to do a better job. Someone working at Wal-Mart with seven kids, you are hurting us.

We have to start holding each other to a higher standard

We cannot blame the white people any longer.'

maltesse3 said...

The importance of history is very important. But the truth needs to be known about the author Tim Tyson. Nobody should be allowed to take any event and misrepresent the facts they way he has done,Anyone can check his sources in the back of his book and see what he is doing.Our History needs to be told in a truthful manner.visit: