Monday, February 9, 2009

Slavery, Civil War, and Reconstruction

Can acceptance of cultural inferiority be overcome? Compare the examples that Zinn cites with other examples of justification for racist attitudes and behavior that you have encountered.How can the reality of slavery (as it was to a human being who lived inside it) ever really be described? Are the conditions of slavery as important as the existence of slavery?


Nicole said...

In my opinion, the issue of overcoming the perceived cultural inferiority of blacks during reconstruction was something that only time could overcome. Supreme Court Justice Roger Taney stated during the controversial Dred Scott case that freeing blacks would be too dangerous, “inevitably producing discontent and insubordination among them, and endangering the peace and safety of the State.” In these words, there is only fear of the unknown; no one really knew what the result would be if blacks were granted freedom. We know now that color does not affect the humanity of an individual, but there was no way to know this in the 19th century—they hadn’t the experience. The only way to overcome this fear would be to gradually test the waters and see the potential equality between the races.
The thought of time being the only medicine reminded me of a quote that my dad told me about: “science progresses one funeral at a time.” This piece of wisdom was coined by Thomas Kuhn in his book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions; it has often been applied to progress in the social sciences and has become known as the Kuhn Paradigm Shift. This theory perfectly explains why the South returned to “the more stable situation of… white supremacy” (Zinn 15). Racism permeated multiple generations, and racial equality could not be achieved until the people who saw first-hand the embodiment of racism—slavery—died. The mere suggestion of freed blacks and racial equality was enough to plant a seed in new generations that would take over when the inherent racism of the slave generations died out.
I don’t think that racial equality has been achieved even today. Maybe true equality is an asymptote that humans will never be able to reach. But in terms of reconstruction, I think it would have been freakishly unreasonable to expect a complete abandonment of all prejudices that had been cultivated for a hundred years.

schager said...

Nice insight Nicole. So what would have to happen to overcome perceived cultural inferiority? How long would it take? Also, WONDERFUL quotation and connection. Check THIS out:

Emily said...

I'm Emily C. (I couldn't figure out how to change my name for this blog)

I agree with Nicole in the sense that overcoming the thought that African Americans were inferior to whites during the Reconstruction is only something which time will heal. Even today, America is making up for is transgressions against African Americans and other minorities with policies like Affirmative Action.

Yet, Zinn says in chapter 2, Drawing the Color Line, "This unequal treatment, this developing combination of contempt and oppression, feeling and action, which we call "racism"—was this the result of a "natural" antipathy of white against black?" I think not. I doubt that racism came over to America with the first settlers so it must have been created for a purpose. It would seem reasonable that once this purpose was eradicated racism would also no longer exist. Zinn states, "If racism can't be shown to be natural, then it is the result of certain conditions, and we are impelled to eliminate those conditions." The difficult part is defining what those conditions are, if the one major condition was that the south needed slave labor to maintain their economy and having animosity/ making African Americans seem to be lesser people made it morally easier to enslave them, then racism should no longer exist, as the south no longer depends on the labor of African Americans to maintain their economy and trade. But, racism still exists today. So does this mean that the South's dependence on slave labor was not a major condition which caused for the formation of racism? I don't think so. This leaves the question of why racism still prevails. It makes racism look like it was natural? New uses keep cropping up for a class of inferior people? It's very difficult to break a cycle which has been in effect for hundreds of year?

Here's what I think, it is only natural for some people to be racist yet racism is not natural.

In response to Ms. Schager's response to Nicole's comment, I think a couple of things must happen to overcome perceived cultural inferiority. One being more integration. I think that it is lack of knowledge which causes for stereotyping and racism in intelligent people. A community like Westport has few African American and other minority group residents and since we have little opportunity to interact with these people we make unjust stereotypes. I can recall seeing Korean women around Westport and seeing people automatically assume that they work in a nail salon and have to commute to Westport because "of course they don't live here..." I was going to say that with a better understanding of their culture hopefully we would not make these stereotypes but I'm not so sure. Maybe we make these stereotypes only because their culture is not like the majority's. So perhaps these people have to become more assimilated into American culture. Then again, the enslaved African Americans were very Americanized, many practiced Christian religious beliefs and had very few semblances of African culture in their lives, yet they were enslaved.

Perhaps the reason racism cannot full ever be overcome is because it is very difficult to put one's finger on exactly what needs to be addressed to eradicate the man-made slavery.

haylee w said...

I do believe what both nicole and emily said i do think that the repercussions of Reconstruction can only be solved through time. I also believe that through teaching and learning acceptance plays a major factor in being able to over come racism.
Just like Emily Nicole said Roger Taney Said this after his upsetting ruling in the Dread Scott case. "It citizenship would give to persons of the negro race, who were recognized as citizens in any one State of the Union, the right to enter every other state whenever they pleased, singly or in companies, without pass or passport, andwithout obstruction, to sojourn there as long as they pleased, to go where they pleased at every hour of the day or night without molestation, unless they committed some violation of the law for which a white man would be punished it citizenship would give them the full liberty of speech in public and in private upon all subjects upon which its own citizens might speak to hold public meetings upon political affairs, and to keep and carry arms wherever they went. And all this would be done in the face of the subject race of the same color, both free and slaves, inevitably producing discontent and insubordination among them, and endangering the peace and safety of the State." I understand that this is a quote bomb but i think that every single word of this is important to read. These words show the immense fear of what granting citizenship to African American would entail. The people of the 19th century are not as open as we are and are not exposed to the same things we are so they instantly judge people on how they look and do not look to see who they really are. Later after years of being exposed to these knew free peaceful slaves the Civil Rights act of 1875 was passed granting "equal citizenship" to African Americans. Although these rights are not truly equal it is still a major step in fixing and trying to over come racism.
I also Agree with Emily C that racism was created for a purpose. I think that racism is using a race as a scape goat. Although I do no fully understand why slave master had huge amounts of hatred towards their slaves i can hypothesis, that these slave masters were afraid of their slaves and it gave them a sense of control over people who they do not really have control over and make it that much easier to enslave them. Zinn says that "If racism can't be shown to be natural, then it is the result of certain conditions, and we are impelled to eliminate those conditions." I do not agree with this because i believe that people will always create conditions because there always has to be a scape goat to make people feel happy. For example in WWII the jews were the scapegoats and were blamed for Germany's failing economy. Where as in America people saw African Americans as the people who were the reasons for robberies and fellons that go on. Using them as the scape goats for all the wrongs and this that cannot be explained. Not only do we use racism as a scapegoat we use it to explain things that we do not understand. For example we stereotype hispanics as lawnmowers and asians as nail salon people because to us their culture is something different to ours and there is no way to us in our eyes that due to their differences in culture they can amount to be on the same par as us. But by the time slaves were free they essentially had the same culture as us, so why did we judge them?
I think this topic is so hard to address because i do not think that people want to accept that their stereotypes are wrong. I feel that through a strong education people can eventually start to accept other cultures.

Colorful Tea said...

This is Tessa. I'm not sure if it says my name, so I figured I’d write it here just in case.
I disagree with Nicole that older, more prejudiced generations must die for racism to end. I would cite as an example my own grandmother, who was raised in the 1930s, a period of time during which the people of our country were inarguably more racist than they are today. She's from a waspy family, and I don't doubt that she was raised with racism as an accepted doctrine. Despite this, I've never heard her insult anyone on the basis of race. The closest thing was a time she referred to her favorite American Idol contestant as "the black girl," but she used it more as an identifier than an insult. So, as far as I can tell, she's overcome her original impressions of cultural inferiority. However, this is only one counterexample, and, unlike mathematics, social studies generally requires more than one.
Further discrediting my grandmother as an example is Zinn's analysis of how racism could be eliminated. He considered a cause to be the "class exploitation which has made poor whites desperate for small gifts of status, and has prevented that unity of black and white necessary for joint rebellion and reconstruction" (drawing the color line). My grandmother grew up poor, but is now wealthy. Her racism followed the same path; when she was poor and needed someone to look down on, she was more racist. However, when she became wealthier and had supposed classless trailer-trash to glare at, she no longer had any reason to be racist. Going by this example, cultural inferiority could be overcome by evenly distributing races amongst economic classes. Part of the reason that non-whites are looked down on today is that they are mentally associated with inner-city gangs, uneducation and strife. If there were just as many wealthy blacks as there are poor ones, people couldn’t logically argue that they are inferior.

Cole said...

In response to Tessa’s post, I agree that cultural inferiority could be overcome by evenly distributing races amongst economic classes; however, I feel that before this can happen blacks need to be given the tools to advance themselves economically and socially. Today “black Americans have entered the middle class, but unemployment and poverty remain far higher than among whites” (Fonner 9). Much of this unemployment and poverty results from inequalities between the educational quality and job opportunities of blacks when compared to whites. Everyday blacks are hampered by “economic inequalities that originated in slavery and were reinforced by decades of segregation” (Fonner 9). Today blacks are born into poverty in the projects of New York and Detroit and struggle to escape the chains holding them back. They are unable to advance to higher classes because they are “sweated and stepped-on… [and] live… in the worst section of town…” (Zinn 447). Before the widespread idea of cultural inferiority can be overcome, blacks need to go to safer schools with more resources. In order for whites to stop looking down on blacks as dirty, uneducated criminals, black students need to have an equal chance to succeed as white students. Only then can the preconceived idea of blacks be changed to one more fair and just. As a nation, we have progressed from the age of slavery and segregation, but we have yet to address the hidden and increasingly important economic inequality. The ideal of equality seems far-fetched, but, perhaps with Obama as president, blacks will be able to rise from poverty and follow the American Dream, which has proved to be an elusive myth for many. Until then, we will live with a cultural inferiority as blatant and widespread as slavery was in the 1850's.

Curtis said...

In response to Cole’s post, I see a possibility that cultural inferiority could be overcome by evenly distributing races amongst economic classes; yet, that is not necessary, as it is impractical because certain races have their respective niches within society. My father, a doctor and a hobby-historian, once told me that each race has its respective strength within the society. Such phenomenon is a result of years of complex historical, socio-economical turnover and society gradually precipitates into a state of equilibrium. Any attempt to disturb that status quo drastically, such as evenly distributing races amongst economic classes, would throw the society into chaos and civil unrest, and even social regression. He also told me the history of communist revolutions in Russia and China in the early part of last century. At that time, socialism and communism were considered great solutions for the socio-economical disadvantages. Through class redistribution, the stigma of sharing wealth resulted in unprecedented economic set back in communist countries. North Korea and Cuba are two most recent examples. The concept of redistribution via government’s power has been proven as a failure by communism.

The early American society was built on two levels with whites on top, and slaves down low. Using Cole’s even distribution of races amongst economic classes, what makes a white man better than another white man, and what makes a slave better than another slave? Or, what makes a white man superior to a slave, and why can’t the slave advance to another economic class, no matter how hard he tries? Thus, to what extent does a slave deserve to be distributed to a higher class than another slave or alternately, how can one downgrade a white man to the level of a slave?

Before the time of the Civil War and Reconstruction, individuals, could not move from class to class. As Zinn states, “liberation [or mobilization] from the top [class] would go only so far as the interests of the dominant groups permitted”(Zinn 172). While white plantation owners sat on top, with large profits and lush crops, they were unwilling and antipathic towards letting go of their slaves, or rather their means of income. Thus, how can one evenly distribute races amongst economic classes, when social and economical mobilization was impossible, as whites remained dominant and in the upper classes while blacks stayed at the bottom “like stones in a pond.”

But today, individuals, or even entire races can move from class to class, and can exist in a higher position in society. The beauty of America allows individuals to rise to power and fortune, no matter what class or race the individual is. Blacks do not need to be given any tools or resources to advance themselves economically and socially. Being born in America is enough for not only blacks, but any race, as they are provided with every tool for success and glory at birth. Today many “black Americans have entered the middle class, but unemployment and poverty remain far higher than among whites” (Fonner 9). Much of this unemployment and poverty results not from inequalities between the educational quality and job opportunities of blacks when compared to whites. This is not a cue for American society to drop everything and help black Americans. Rather, this is a stark reality check to blacks, indicating that they better work harder to get a job and receive education. There are no inequalities between education and job opportunities for blacks compared to whites. Each individual in America has the choice and power to decide what kind of education he or she yearns to acquire. Today, our society is filled with successful stories of every race, not only whites, but, blacks, Hispanic, and Asians. It is a multi-cultured society. The blacks should not hamper themselves with so-called culture inferiority. They should respect themselves and work hard to elevate their own status in society. Today, America is beautiful not only because of its name, but because of its value for allowing each and every individual a fair and equal chance to succeed in life.

Let’s take President Obama for example. Barack Obama was born in 1961, in Honolulu, Hawaii. His father, Barack Obama, Sr., was born of African ethnicity in Kenya. Obama’s mother, Ann Dunham, was white who grew up in Kansas. Soon, he was enrolled in the fifth grade at the esteemed Punahou Academy, graduating with honors in 1979. He was only one of three black students at the school. This is where “Obama first became conscious of racism and what it meant to be an African–American”(A&E Bio). In his memoirs, Obama admitted using alcohol, marijuana and cocaine during his teenage years. However, after high school, Obama studied at Occidental College in Los Angeles for two years and transferred to Columbia University in New York, “graduating in 1983 with a degree in political science”(A&E Bio). Soon years later, Obama would become our first black, president. Through hard work and perseverance, Obama, being a black individual, was able to rise to power and glory, even under an ever-looming presence of racism. In America, each and every individual has a fair and equal chance to succeed in life. The beauty of America allows individuals to rise to power and fortune, no matter what class or race the individual is. Blacks do not need to be given any tools or resources to advance themselves economically and socially. An individual, like Obama, worked hard for a better education, and was able to rise to power. Thus, Obama has proved to the rest of America that individuals, of any race, of any class, can move to any class they wish to be a part of. Thus, cultural inferiority can be overcome with hard work and determination, as they are keys in terminating laziness and parasitic motives. Society will recognize this, and reward the individual with glory, and quite possibly, power.

Cole said...

In response to Curtis’ post, I strongly disagree with several theories and statements that you make. To begin, redistribution of wealth can be a helpful and positive strategy in society. The examples you give for showing the negatives of wealth redistribution, North Korea, China, Russia, and Cuba, are not fair or applicable examples; all of these countries, at one time, called themselves Communist or Socialist, but they were in fact totalitarian. Their leaders did not redistribute the wealth equally and, therefore, the blame cannot be placed on “[t]he concept of redistribution via government’s power.” In fact, my father, a retired professor of political science at Stanford University who has studied socialism for over 40 years, has said to me and many of his colleagues that the notion of socialism as frightening and evil based on the Fascist regimes of Stalin and other corrupt leaders is entirely misled and unfair.
However, instead of remaining on the topic of Communism, I want to expand on Reconstruction, one of the topics we are supposed to be blogging about. You ask, “how can one evenly distribute races amongst economic classes, when social and economic mobilization was impossible,” which is exactly what I was trying to point out. Before one can redistribute wealth in reconstruction, one has to give blacks and other minority groups unable to move up the socio-economic ladder the tools to advance themselves. Unfortunately, your belief that “[t]he beauty of America allows individuals to rise to power and fortune, no matter what class or race…” is not, if one looks at the state of minority groups, accurate. Today, as you point out, blacks have much higher unemployment rates than whites. However, this is not due to the black’s “laziness” or “parasitic motives,” it is because they live in a society which accepts the “subordination of the Negro” (Zinn 207). As a society and culture, we remain oblivious and blind to the many maladies and inequalities that affect African-Americans. If one examines the schools, homes, and cities in which blacks grow up with any attention to detail, one will realize the vast difference between black and white cultures.
For instance, one can look at Westport, a town comprised of 99% whites, and one of its neighboring towns, Bridgeport, which is almost entirely black and Hispanic. These two towns, though near in location, are polar opposites in terms of educational opportunities and freedoms. Staples is an excellent school, with an abundance of AP classes and a staff of highly regarded teachers; whereas, Central is a much poorer school without the money to hire veteran teachers that has a much lower graduation rate. To relate this to the reconstruction, states like Maine, with a high white population, received millions of dollars more to rebuild than states like Georgia, with a high black population, decimated by the Civil War. Overall, I ask, would you be able to rise up in socio-economic status and follow the “American Dream” if you were a black teenager in Bridgeport living with a single mother with six other siblings in a three room apartment? I struggle to believe that most blacks, and any other member of a minority group, are able to follow Obama’s footsteps. Yes, Obama was able to rise out of poverty, but he is an outlier, and for 99% of people in similar circumstances, the “American Dream” is a far-fetched myth. As W.E.B. Du Bois stated, American “capitalism as part of a process of exploitation…” (Zinn 210) is an unconquerable mountain for many. Therefore, cultural inferiority cannot be overcome unless minority groups like blacks are given the tools to succeed.

Curtis said...

Cole, I respect you and your father's esteemed views.

Yet, a question arises: why has socialism and communism never been accepted by mainstream America? Countries that practiced communism in the past have proven failures. Recently, Russia and China have gained economic prosperity because they have given up their fundamentals of communism. That has nothing to do with fascism, because China is still politically fascist.

In addition to your previous post, I do believe you misinterpreted my writing. You bound "laziness and parasitic" with "blacks." I never implied my writing and views toward any specific race. I simply pointed out certain behavior in society which should not be encouraged, and is looked down upon. As an American and a minority myself, I believe in equal opportunities.

Society should not be in favor of any specific race.

Tessa said...

Tessa again (I can’t figure out how to change the weird name, unfortunately):

Curtis has basically answered his own questions. Socialism and communism have “never been accepted by mainstream America” precisely because “countries that practiced communism in the past have proven failures.” As we are often reminded, History is written by the winners and, as Zinn suggested, the saviors. Although the war on terror has dominated our educational years, older Americans were raised during the Cold War. That war was democratic capitalists verses communistic fascists. Because of this, these pairs have become inextricably linked in people’s minds. People associate both communism and totalitarian governments with what American’s see as the disaster of the USSR. Not only can we see that those governments didn’t work, but we also continue to carry hatred towards them. This makes people distrustful of communist governments.

Lauren said...

Lauren K.
In response to what Emily C. and Nicole said….
Benjamin Franklin said, “Never leave that til tomorrow which you can do today.” When reading both Emily and Nicole’s responses I found it interesting that they found time to be the solution to overcoming the perceived cultural inferiority of blacks during reconstruction. While overcoming this inferiority is obviously not going to be done in one day and it does need time to be overcome, time is not the reason for its elimination. This brings us back, however, to the original question of can acceptance of cultural inferiority be overcome and Schager’s questions of what would have to happen to overcome perceived cultural inferiority? How long would it take? I believe there are no simple responses to these questions because the perceived cultural inferiority has not been overcome. During the time of the Dred Scott case Chancellor Kent said that, “in no part of the country except Maine, did the African race, in point of fact, participate equally with the whites in the exercise of civil and political rights.” This very blatantly shows the inferiority of blacks vs. whites that exists. But how to overcome this inferiority? A big part of this class is taking risks. T.S. Eliot said, “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” The end of quarter rubric says in the Nothing Compares 2 U column: Takes risks and frequently pushes the boundaries of perceived limits. Harriet Tubman took a huge risk in escorting more than 300 slaves through the Underground Railroad and risked her life everyday because she thought the freedom of these blacks a worthy cause. Zinn shows the risks that other people took. “Even in the worst periods, southern Negroes continued to meet, to organize in self-defense. Herbert Aptheker reprints thirteen documents of meetings, petitions, and appeals of Negroes in the 1880s…showing the spirit of defiance and resistance of blacks all over the South. This, in the face of over a hundred lynchings a year by this time.” The saying the bigger the risk the bigger the reward can be perfectly applied here. If more people became aware of the cultural inferiority and were willing to put aside their own needs and take a risk for the benefit of another, then, in time, this perceived cultural inferiority could be overcome.
Another question that was asked is how can the reality of slavery (as it was to a human being who lived inside it) ever really be described? This is a question better answered by slaves themselves. Zinn quotes John Little, a former slave who said, “They say slaves are happy, because they laugh, and are merry. I myself and three or four others, have received two hundred lashes in the day, and had our feet in fetters; yet, at night, we would sing and dance, and make others laugh at the rattling of our chains. Happy men we must have been! We did it to keep down trouble, and to keep our hearts from being completely broken…” If it looked to white people like slavery was enjoyed or wanted by blacks it was only so that they could keep out of trouble and if they didn’t do this the conditions of slavery were so horrible that they would die from agony if they didn’t do something to keep their minds off of it.

Alexandra said...

In response to Lauren’s post I agree that the best way to answer the question: how can the reality of slavery (as it was to a human being who lived inside it) ever really be described? Would be to look at the view of the slaves themselves; in which most slaves are determined to be happy by dancing and singing even through they are enslaved.
Although I disagree, in the sense that white people used this perspective as an excuse for using slavery, because whites believed that slavery wasn’t horrible and was even enjoyed and it also kept blacks out of trouble. This belief may have been some small way of justifying the use of slavery but did not excuse of the use of such a terrible practice. In my opinion, while the conditions of slavery do affect the importance of the existence of slavery, one does not cancel out the other. Even the slaveholders believed that the situation must not be idealistic but is also not horrible it does not excuse the existence of slavery, especially slavery in the United States.
What the white slaveholders did not understand was that even though “American slavery was the most cruel form of slavery in history” (Zinn 28) most slaves refused to fully submit to being enslaved. In order for the displaced African’s (blacks) to retain their culture they sang and danced to prove that even in the worst situation were a slave has been reduced “to less than human status by the use of racial hatred, with that relentless clarity based on color, where white was master, black was slave” (Zinn 28) that they can not be completely controlled by their slaveholders. The system of enslaving the blacks by whites because blacks were considered to be inferior had created slavery, but it was without submission.

Ellen said...

In response to Cole’s posts, I disagree with his contention that cultural inferiority can only be bridged if minorities are provided with certain advantages from outside their communities. Cole talks about the role of education in improving the economic potential of blacks and claims that because blacks generally live and are educated in poor communities with lower-funded schools, it is very difficult for them to ascend the economic ladder and ultimately overcome cultural inferiority versus the white majority.
As recently as 2001, the federal government enacted the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), aimed at improving education. The act was signed into law by President George W. Bush to improve schooling and to “eliminate the achievement gap that exists between groups of students within our nation's schools”. (
In other words, the Act was created to assure that students from poorer school districts attain the same success as students from richer schools. I refer to the website, which makes a direct link to race, as it says, “A glaring disparity exists in the achievement of Black, Hispanic, and students living in poverty when compared to white and more affluent students in the subjects of reading and mathematics”. There can be no doubt that the NCLB act was designed to provide the educational resources necessary to assist minority groups and to help them succeed.
However, after its passage 8 years ago, the NCLB act has arguably been a failure. It has been criticized by both conservatives and liberals. Rural School & Community Trust, Nov. 2006, says, “"The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act is fundamentally flawed and provides neither an efficient, nor an effective path to improving schooling for all students. Some provisions in the law are actually harmful for students." While it’s unclear whether this failure was the result of bad execution or a poor design, it has not demonstrably achieved its goal of providing minorities, including blacks, with a better education. So if this costly and highly touted program has turned out to be so ineffective, what alternative solutions can bridge cultural inferiorities?
An answer may be derived from history. Emily and Nicole contend that only time can overcome cultural inferiorities. In chapter 2, Drawing the Color Line, Zinn talks about slaves in the Ashanti Kingdom of West Africa who, although they were under strict servitude, were able to marry and own property including other slaves. Zinn says that, “in nine cases out of ten, [Ashanti slaves] possibly became an adopted member of the family, and in time his descendants so merged and intermarried with the owner's kinsmen that only a few would know their origin" (Zinn, 27). This provides at least one method for bridging the cultural gap. According to the US Census Bureau, the number of interracial marriages grew from 157,000 in 1960, to 1,161,000 in 1992 ( Within 32 years, the number of interracial marriages in this country nearly octupled and I contend that as a result of this trend, cultural inferiorities will diminish and ultimately die out as our country becomes more and more integrated. While this solution may not appeal to the immediate demands for equity by some, it appears to me to be inevitable and a natural result of societal evolution. I believe that time is the only solution for cultural equality.

Stephanie said...

Steph O.
After reading the previous posts and considering this issue, I’ve come to the conclusion that with each new generation in America, there will likely be a greater acceptance of cultural differences. If we teach future generations about accepting others as equals along with exposing them directly to different races and ethnicities, I believe cultural inferiority can be overcome. As Zinn wrote in reference to the ensnarement of blacks into slavery in Drawing the Color Line, “The point is that the elements of this web are historical, not "natural"” (chpt 2). If this is true, that slavery was an unnatural occurrence, then it is likely that racial prejudice and bigotry are unnatural as well and can be surmounted.
I agree with Zinn’s statement, “there is evidence that where whites and blacks found themselves with common problems, common work, common enemy in their master, they behaved toward one another as equals” (chpt 2). Knowing this, I believe it is possible for future generations to embrace other races and cultures that are different from themselves. In our nation, we are moving toward this in several ways. Before Brown v. Board of Education, blacks and whites received separate schooling, allowing for little interaction between the two races. This segregation promoted intolerance and fear of others of different color. Today, young people, who are exposed to different races in public school, are able to work together and hopefully realize that the color of one’s skin does not determine who one is as a person. From universities with affirmative action programs to equal opportunity employment in the workplace and integrated housing, people are being exposed to others of different races and backgrounds. Diversity is even part of the philosophy of many universities today as their aim is for students to achieve a broad understanding of others throughout the world. Our culture, through literature, media, and the arts, also helps encourage the acceptance of people of different colors. A movie such as Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner promotes tolerance toward interracial marriage. I believe the increasing rate of interracial marriage in our society is one of the key elements in breaking ingrained racist feelings toward others that are different. If my and future generations continue to live in a world where we learn about embracing others, then it is possible that in the future cultural inferiority can be overcome.
Similar to Tessa, I too feel my grandparents, who regularly interacted with blacks, were accepting of other races and cultures, which was instilled in my parents and eventually in me. My maternal grandfather was a high school principal in the Bedford Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, which was an almost all black school. My maternal grandmother was a high school teacher in a predominantly African American school in Queens. Their experience with black people appeared to lead them to accept blacks as equal to whites. Neither was ever heard making a derogatory racial remark. In fact, my grandfather was a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in the 1950s and ‘60s whose mission is to ensure equality of minority groups and eliminate racial prejudice. Parenthetically, he was actually investigated by the federal government because of his support of the NAACP. When my grandparents’ white middle-class neighborhood became racially and ethnically diversified, they were very accepting of their new neighbors. I’ll never forget a black neighbor of theirs who came up to my parents and me when we were visiting praising my grandfather as ‘colorblind.’
Personal experience with people of different color is perhaps the best way to overcome cultural inferiority. My experience with black people in Westport has been limited, yet significant. I grew up with many African American babysitters who I have fond memories of and still keep in touch. One of my most admired and inspiring teachers was a black man who taught dance to me for over six years. Further, the former Rabbi of my synagogue was married to a black woman and had four biracial children. All these experiences were very positive, and I believed helped me be fully accepting of people regardless of their skin color.
As to the reality of slavery, ‘can it ever really be described if one has not lived it?’ I think not. When one experiences a situation firsthand, he or she comes away with enduring inner emotions and feelings that influence the rest of their lives. As Zinn states, “Slavery was lifelong, morally crippling, destructive of family ties, without hope of any future…the reduction of the slave to less than human status by the use of racial hatred, with that relentless clarity based on color, where white was master, black was slave” (chpt 2). As horrendous as the conditions of slavery were, it is its very existence which is most abhorrent. While statistics cannot begin to capture what slavery was like, they are nonetheless useful for us to get a sense of a black’s experience during this time. Many slaves died young. Whippings and punishments were common. Religion was used for control. “But can statistics record what it meant for families to be torn apart, when a master, for profit, sold a husband or wife, a son or a daughter?” (Zinn chpt 9).
I appreciate how far we have come as a nation in the election of Barack Obama as our 44th president. His presidency demonstrates to me that our nation has come a long way toward accepting people of color and overcoming cultural inferiority. Thinking back to presidents before him, both Jefferson and Lincoln believed that slaves should be free, but that blacks were inferior and should be colonized outside the United States. Although at times it seems like we have made slow progress, I believe now with the first African American president, that our nation is destined to further breakdown racial barriers and increase tolerance toward others.

Brendan said...

There had been a small debate of time vs. action here that reminded me a little of a small argument that went on in the blog about how Reconstruction should have been handled. In the side debate, it is currently being argued whether it was better for President Lincoln to free the slaves as quickly as he did or whether the emancipation of these slaves should have been longer. On the one hand, if the emancipation took longer, some of the negative hits that integrating blacks into society took may not have occurred, but on the other hand the immediate emancipation was necessary and deserved. The small argument here somewhat mirrors that.
My opinion here is the same as my opinion in the other debate. I agree with Lauren and Alex in that while overcoming opinions of cultural inferiority will not happen overnight, the best way for cultural inferiority to be overcome is to take action. Howard Zinn builds upon this, saying that making a difference in society depends on “…the capacity of the ordinary citizen to act” (Zinn 631). Zinn cites this “capacity” as a chief reason that the Civil Rights Movement brought the end of segregation. He also goes on to mention women and Native Americans to prove that by acting, it is possible to obtain the equality desired. The effects of taking action were shown to be positive well before the war. As mentioned, Harriet Tubman was heroic in helping slaves to escape to freedom in the Underground Railroad, and proves that taking action and focusing on her mission was the method to her success, as “if [she] could not have [either liberty or death], I would have the other…” (Zinn 175). Also, southerner Ulrich Phillips reveals that “on the whole, there was much greater anxiety (from whites) abroad in the land than historians have told of...” (Zinn 175). Slaveholders had taken notice of what the slaves could do if they continued to be mistreated, and that eventually led to emancipation during the Civil War.

Emily C. said...

Emily C. again...

So I was reading a book and I came across this quote: "I reasoned, in some misguided attempt at rationalization, this circle of unthinking prejudice was large and inclusive; no one was immune"
I think that prejudice is often paired with the perception of African Americans and other minorities, for example, Zinn states in Slavery w/o Submission that the perception of African Americans during the Civil War and Reconstruction was that they were: "inept, lazy, corrupt, and ruinous to the governments of the South when they were in office."
Yet, like the quote from my other book said, "no one was immune" to being prejudice. Is it not possible that the reason that African Americans still have difficulty becoming fully accustomed and assimilated into white culture that they too have a negative perception of white people? I remember Barack Obama saying something about black youths not succeeding academically because the youths believed that is was 'white' to study and work hard. Does anyone else agree with me that it is a combination of prejudices from white people which inhibit us from allowing more integration and also prejudices from blacks which impede them from trying to break free of a perceived cultural inferiority?

Cole said...

In response to the many postings in the past few days, first I want to answer Curtis’ question. Personally, and this belief is backed up by Howard Zinn’s “Coming Revolt of the Guards” chapter, I believe that communism and socialism have not been accepted by mainstream America because the people in the middle, and especially upper class, up until recently, have been unwilling to give up their positions in society to help the poor. Howard Zinn calls these people saviors and states that “the Establishment [the government and the people in power] cannot survive without the obedience and loyalty of millions of people who are given small rewards to keep the system [capitalism] going…” (635). For two centuries, the middle class has been satisfied with their position in society, unwilling to revolt and create an equal society where there would be no poor or homeless. The prospects for communism and socialism in America have also been hampered by what Zinn calls “the most ingenious system of control in world history” (632). This system relies on the middle class to guard against revolt, by remaining loyal to the Establishment. It is a system so sly, cunning, and complex that the government “tax[es] the middle class to pay for the relief of the poor, building resentment on top of humiliation” (634). By definition, mainstream America has been oblivious to the desperate state of the working class (lower implies a negative connotation), and has also been blind to their own status. Currently, the status of middle class America has also been sinking; homeless percentages and unemployment levels have reached all time highs. The state of the economy is in a recession, nearing a depression. All of these signs point to a faltering capitalist state, so, although I doubt America will revolt to establish a socialist state, perhaps they will revolt for a more equal society, one not communist, but one more liberal and fair.
In addition, Curtis and Tessa, you seem to believe that Russia and China are communist states, however if you look at the policies established by both nations you will find that they are fascist and totalitarian, not equal or communist. However, instead of hampering on communism and socialism, I want to respond to other comments directly related to the question.
To respond to Ellen’s comment, I feel that No Child Left Behind (I believe it should read many children left behind) is an unfair program to back up your argument. You write that No Child Left Behind is proof that blacks and minorities should not be given economic and social help; however, I believe one has to completely dismiss that program from a discussion. To begin, NCLB was one of the many failed plans of the Bush era. Instead of helping minorities with educational help, it failed to provide any money to do so. As a result, the program existed, but was not doing much, if anything, to help poor schools. For those reasons, I do not think NCLB can be used as evidence for your hypothesis. Personally, I feel that if an economic and social plan designed to help minorities was designed, implemented, overseen, and backed up with actual money it would help impoverished areas with little money for schooling. I also have to disagree with the notion that time alone can help the cultural inferiority of blacks. I think it is true that slowly our culture will become more accepting of blacks as interracial marriages increase; however, I also believe, as I have stated before, that we can reduce this cultural inferiority immediately. If economic help is given to minorities, and if whites become more accustomed to blacks as citizens, rather than potential criminals, the blatant problem of cultural inferiority can be lessened, and, if all goes well, removed. Furthermore, I think that implicit bias is another problem we have to overcome as a race and as a nation. There was an article several days ago in the New York Times which talked explicitly about this implicit bias and racism towards blacks and stated that “tests taken from 2000 to 2006… found that three-quarters of whites have an implicit pro-white/anti-black bias” (Blow 1). Along with economic aid, whites, and other races in society, have to admit their hidden biases (I know I have been biased and racist in the past). If all this happens, the cultural inferiority of blacks and minorities can be overcome.

Tessa said...

Regarding the implicit bias studies Cole mentioned-
the studies can be taken here ( They take about ten minutes, maybe less, and there are tests of many types of associations. I just took one on african americans/european americans (their words, not mine), and apparently my "data suggest a moderate automatic preference for European American compared to African American."
The study is particularly interesting because, as Cole said, it helps to build awareness, both in a general "society is racist" way to connecting more personally, like me looking on this and being able to see that I should concentrate on being more open minded (if that makes any sense)

Cole said...

To add onto my previous response, I wanted to try and answer Emily’s question. To begin, I think that is a very good question, and I do agree, to an extent, that there needs to be accountability in both races, white and black, of implicit bias and prejudice. For instance, in the article I mentioned in my last post, which talked about implicit bias, Charles Blow writes that “blacks showed racial biases, too, but unlike whites, they split about evenly between [being] pro-black and pro-white” (Blow 1). The data for this conclusion comes from thousands of online tests administered by Project Implicit, a laboratory in Harvard University, which is able to asses and detect hidden racial bias. I think this statement sums up my belief on the implicit bias in both whites and blacks. While blacks are also biased and prejudice, this prejudice occurs at a lesser extent when compared to whites. Overall, I believe it is a problem in both races, but it is a major problem for whites, who showed a much higher implicit bias and prejudice in testing.

Cole said...

Thanks Tessa- thats the site I recommended to Ms. Schager actually today, and yes its very insightful about hidden racial prejudices. Additionally, one can view the New York Times article on implicit bias on nytimes. com- just type in implicit bias into the search box and click on the first site- its an opinions piece by Charles Blow, a visual op-ed columnist for the NY times.

Cole said...

Yeah, I definitely agree with Tessa, although I have yet to take the test, im sure it will provide surprising information about ones' hidden bias, since I find it hard to believe that no one is bias or prejudice-free.

Cole said...

To edit my last comment, anyone should replace no one. Sorry for the mistake.

Cole said...

I also wanted to pose a question to the class. After recently reading the Implicit Bias article in the New York Times, I noticed that it mentioned Attorney General Eric Holder's "scathing comments about America being a 'nation of cowards' because we dont have any frank conversations of race" (Blow 1). I wanted to ask how people felt about that statement. Do you believe this nation is cowardly by refusing to talk about race? Personally, I feel we are more oblivious to the inequalities among minorities and among separate races; I feel that we refuse to act, help or talk about minorities and blacks because we refuse to, despite the blatant inequalities that exist. But, what do other people think?

Ellen said...

Cole, I understand that NCLB was not successful as I addressed that in my last post, however, it was an attempt at raising the education levels in poorer neighborhoods. I believe that this is much, much more easily said than done. NCLB was implemented in order to succeed, we cannot doubt that, but how do we know if we can ever really create a program to do this? Our country is extremely diverse from state to state and school to school, so how do we make a universal program for all schools nation wide? Maybe this is one tool that is just not possible... What other "tools" can we give to underprivileged people such as the people of Bridegport to provide them with success? Is it possible to help everyone? I understand that such "tools" might help break the cultural inferiorities, but I don't believe any of these "tools" really do exist.
Furthermore, how do we judge the amount or degree of cultural inferiority? One might say it has had a complete turn around since the 1700's when in " 1700, in Virginia, there were 6,000 slaves, one-twelfth of the population. By 1763, there were 170,000 slaves, about half the population" (Zinn, ch. 2). While today, 300 years later, slavery has been abolished with the 13th amendment, deemed equal in the 14th, blacks were given the right to vote in the 15th, and we even have an African-American President. One might say all cultural inferiorities have been removed because slavery does not exist anymore yet "The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency estimates that 50,000 people are trafficked into or transited through the U.S.A. annually as sex slaves, domestics, garment, and agricultural slaves" ( many of these people from Africa. So although it may not be nationwide, slavery does still exist in America. I am still firm in my idea that only time can heal these cultural inferiorities. Since the 1300’s, over 200 years, the amount of slaves has drastically decreased in America. In 1800, “10 to 15 million blacks had been transported to America” (Zinn, ch.2) Clearly, this number has radically been reduced, but it is still not at zero. Can this number ever truly reach zero? I do not know, but I do believe that time is the only way to tell and the only way get this number to the lowest it can be and that although they seem ideal, these "tools" can never really develop.

emily said...

This is Emily H.

I believe that to overcome this perceived cultural inferiority it first needs to be properly identified. Cole brought up a good point about our nation possibly being cowardly to talk about race. A friend once told me a story about how she heard a story about a boy who spent two weeks in jail for breaking into his school and she assumed the teen was black. She wasn't trying to be racist but subconsciously she thought of blacks differently and stereotypically more likely to be criminals. Zinn references a best-selling textbook in which "two northern liberal historians saw slavery as perhaps the Negro's 'necessary transition to civilization'." Many justified slavery in saying that it helped the blacks tied to their masters by its bonds and was an essential tool to the Southern economy. The reality was that it was blatantly inhumane but it could not be outlawed until people realized this. Similarly, this perceived cultural inferiority can not be overcome until people realize consciously or subconsciously that they treat people differently because of skin color.

Emily C also brought up another important step to achieving equality - integration. Zinn says " the result of certain conditions." It began as a feeling of "racial strangeness" because those living in America were not used to seeing blacks and therefore felt different, however, as slavery grew it evolved into full blown racial hatred. The assumption that blacks were inferior came out of the unfamiliarity with a different race. If these Americans had grown up with blacks would they not have treated them differently? This certainly applies, as Emily brought up, to communities like Westport where few blacks live and therefore we aren't exposed to the idea that they are truly equal. Although we all know they SHOULD be treated equally, subconsciously we may not be convinced of this due to a lack of exposure. This idea of integration to create equality is similar to when the Irish first came to America they were turned away from jobs and treated as an inferior race. Now that those of Irish ethnicity are completely integrated these people are treated completely equally. In 1860 there were 4 million slaves so obviously this racial hatred against blacks was much more widespread and severe yet I still think the concept of integration will gradually lead to equality.

Diane said...

I agree with Emily, Nicole, and several others that the acceptance of cultural inferiority is a wrong that can be diminished over time, but, like Stephanie, I think that it is necessary to change societal teachings and perspectives to truly overcome it. As time passes, it is the responsibility of each transitory generation to actively alter societal teachings and change and improve the ideals of future populations. If coming generations can learn from the moral mistakes that preceded them, idealistically, they can help to construct a society that rejects both cultural hierarchy and racism.

However, in order to deeply discuss the elimination of this erroneous acceptance, I think it is necessary to understand its roots in society; why, for example, was an institution such as American slavery created and permitted to survive for so long when even Thomas Jefferson, an American founding father, believed it was a “perpetual exercise of the most boisterous passions, the most unremitting despotism… and degrading submissions"(Jefferson). According to historian Howard Zinn in his novel A People’s History of the United States, when the colonists first utilized the labor of imported Africans around 1617, “it was natural to consider imported blacks as slaves” (Zinn 25). However, how much of this immediate approval of cultural hierarchy was “natural”? It may be the nature of man to organize, but to blatantly and brutally discriminate against a people on a superficial and cultural basis cannot be passed off as a natural action. I reason that, because it is not “natural” for humans to enslave each other in institutions as was done in America, such racism and animosity can be driven from society. However, if this is not natural, how did the number of black slaves in America swell to about 15 million by 1800?

It seems that fear, isolation, and moral ignorance were the fuels that constantly fed, and still feed, racism and animosity between different cultures. In the eighteenth century, the white’s fear of blacks drove a stake in between them; as Zinn reports, slaves “showed their refusal to submit by running away”(32), and they “engaged in sabotage, slowdowns, and other subtle forms of resistance” (33). This resistance, however, was sometimes more extensive. In his novel Flight and Rebellion, Gerald Mullin describes how reports from 18th century plantations told of completely committed slave rebels who “became killers, arsonists, and insurrectionists”(33). The white populace feared these more desperate rebels, and, as Zinn states, “fear of slave revolt seems to have been a permanent fact of plantation life”(35). As fear separated blacks and whites even more, discussion or compromise between the two cultures seemed out of the question.

Also at this time, the whites and blacks were isolated from each other on a multitude of different levels. Whites, obviously, held all power in society; they were also generally far wealthier than blacks and had greater education available to them. The inequity and pure unfairness of this hierarchy caused the general populace of blacks to loath the whites. This hatred, no doubt, was similar to that which the south had experienced shortly preceding the civil war. The southerners felt that “New York city, like a mighty queen of commerce… [sent] out her long arms to the extreme south… and, with an avidity rarely equaled, grasped [southern] grains and [transported] them to herself – taxing [the south] at every step – and depleting [the south] as extensively as possible”(Economic Causes). They, like the blacks knew they were being taken advantage of, and reacted similarly. They chose to assert their rights as southern states and secede while the blacks chose to assert their rights as humans and rebel. Although these two occurrences are barley comparable, the hate that both the southern states and blacks felt as a result of inequality only widened the rift between cultures.

The fear and isolation present in this time period is transcendent, for it stays alive with the acceptance of cultural inferiority. Today, even, people who are apart of generally poverty stricken cultures or live in ghettos are feared by wealthier cultures and classes. For example, I cannot count how many times I have heard the term “sketchy” used as a description of an area populated by poorer blacks and other ethnicities. People today have fear of poorer cultures that are allegedly more desperate and dangerous, a fear that leads to continual isolation. For example, in the years 2005 and 2006, about 24.3% of blacks and 20.6% of Hispanics in America were recognized as members of poverty while only 10.3% of whites were considered to be poor. The different races of poverty stricken Americans then tend to group together in ghettos or poorer cities, leading to the colonization of richer Americans in wealthier suburbs. From separate areas, where it is “safer” these cultures can brood over the racism and cultural inequality that creates the cultural hierarchy.

With this information, I see that, in order to overcome the acceptance of cultural inferiority, it is necessary to overcome the fear, isolation, and moral ignorance of today that separates our modern medley of cultures. Through positive teachings, I think that parents can pass on an understanding of equality to their children. I think this mostly because our surroundings and childhood have an immense impact on the views we develop as adults. For example, during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, those who grew up with slaves in their houses and yards would much more readily accept it as adults. Just the same, those who were taught to recognize slavery as a moral wrong would much more readily oppose it as adults. If a new generation is taught to accept cultural diversity as a positive factor and view people of all ethnicities as equal, hopefully, when they come to run society, they can instill their teachings in others. Also, dissolving the bindings of ethnicities to social class could make a great difference; if people of different cultures can relate to one another, they can accept each other more as equals. For example, our 44th president Barack Obama, a black American citizen, has helped to break such binding. He has come to power through the electoral vote on his own, despite the obstacles presented by his superficial appearance and ethnicity. Ultimately, he is a sign of hope that Americans and the world may one day move on from acceptance of cultural inferiority, for, not more than two generations ago was racism so much stronger.

Also, to respond to Cole question about the cowardice of Americans, I also think that we are oblivious, if not on purpose, to the racial minorities and poverty stricken communities of modern day. I think that Americans do need to acknowledge the role racism in our nation and that, as a people, we need to both discuss it and find a way to diminish if not eliminate it. While I was looking up information for this response, however, I came across another quote by Eric Holden; when referring to the segregation today, Holden stated that “America in the year 2009 does not, in some ways, differ significantly from the country that existed some 50 years ago”(Salam). What is your opinion on the state of segregation and racism today as compared to its state 50 years ago?

Michael said...

I believe that while slavery seems to be the principal cause of racism, it is important to understand that racism was caused also by the conflict between elites, who caused the war. Zinn describes that, “The clash was not over slavery as a moral institution-most northerners did not care enough about slavery to make sacrifices for it, certainly not the sacrifice of war. It was not a clash of peoples…but of elites”(Zinn). Because of the contrasting policies and values between southern and northern elites, the war was caused. Therefore, I believe it is important to understand that the slavery and intense racism of the south was perpetuated also by the elites, who have much to blame for the racist values, not only the people. If the elites had changed, so would the people.

I definitely agree with Cole that the country is still afraid to really discuss racism. It is something that definitely must be further addressed in society, though it is also certainly something only time can resolve. With the election of Obama, we can definitely see progress made, especially since elites have proven to hold great responsibility throughout the social environment in society during the civil war, though it certainly does not signal the end of it all. I do not believe that it is solely the responsibility of the white or the black community to solve alone, but of each equally.

I also think that the way in which we are educated in very important. We must be educated equally about successful African-Americans as whites and we must not be taught, whether consciously or subconsciously, that the minorities are always the cause of crime.

Finally, I believe that the media must change to become more open to change if we truly want to see more acceptance of those who are different, no matter in what case. I strongly believe that the media perpetuates a lot of negative ideas. We can see this through offensive racist cartoons, such as the one comparing Obama to a monkey, in the New York Post. We can see this through Disney movies, which only feature white princes and princesses. We can also see it through the generalization of TV characters, who almost always depict criminals and villians as being from minorities. We can finally see it through the overwhelming idea that lighter is better. The black celebrities in society are almost always lighter, rather than darker. Bleaching crèmes, sold to make African-American skin lighter, have recently become very popular among the black community mainly because of this pressure to lighten skin. Neutral messages within the media is therefore very important to acceptance within all cultures.

sally said...

Many people said they think time will cure the feelings of inferiority towards other races, and to an extent I believe this to be true. In Drawing the Color Line, Zinn states that “Black slaves were the answer” towards the white colonists problems when they first migrated to America in 1619. They were in desperate need of labor and the slave trade from Africa was already in motion. By the time the Civil War came around in 1861, the slave population held a great percentage of the overall American population. The Southerners still felt a great distaste towards the black slaves and were not willing to let Lincoln free them without a fight. The Southerners were dependent on their slaves because the slaves were the source of the labor that then got shipped to the North to be manufactured. In 2009 slavery is obviously abolished and I think Industrialism had a very strong effect. The purpose for slaves in 1619 and during the Civil War was to do the manual labor that the whites did not want to do, however the industrial revolution introduced the power of the machine. The machine replaced people and therefore reduced the demand for workers. So as I said before about believing time will cure the feelings of inferiority towards, I also believe that time brings the up-comings of new technology which change the way the country works and what the country needs. For example, since the Civil War we are more dependent on computers than we are on each other. To dismiss racism is a difficult task however time is curing parts of it. Today more then ever the feeling of blacks as an inferior race is decreasing with the election of President Obama. The idea for reconstruction in the south never worked and I am not surprised, for how can a country expect to change their ways in a couple years, when we haven’t even managed to do it yet in present day?

Suzanne said...

I do not think that it is time passing, only, that must happen for the black population to become finally equal, socially, economically, and politically, with the white population. People on both sides of the color line must be willing to take progressive steps to ensure that the two races, or, even whites and non-whites are given equal opportunities and an equal chance at success, because our society has enforced equality through law, but not through social interactions. Statistics prove this point:
President Obama’s Inauguration was enforced with the most high-tech of security measures. The Los Angeles Times reported on January 18, 2009 that “…the inauguration of the first black president… poses special concerns.” In the same article, it stated that the Secret Service began protecting Obama in “May 2007, at the earliest stage ever for a presidential candidate.”
In an article published in Reuters called, “Racial inequality persists in U.S.: report” from March 5, 2008, statistics were published that showed that the black population is still not flourishing. It states that “Three times as many U.S. blacks as whites live below the poverty line… blacks are twice as likely to be jobless” (Bigg 1).
If our society is still unequal to this day, and there is concern that a Black man may get assassinated because he holds the presidential office, than our methods clearly need to change. As historian Roger Wilkins points out, Blacks have a 375-year history on this continent: 245 involving slavery, 100 involving legalized discrimination, and only 30 involving anything else (Wilkins, 1995).
Statistics prove that blacks are still unequal in our society. Zinn states that "If racism can't be shown to be natural, then it is the result of certain conditions, and we are impelled to eliminate those conditions." Our conditions, which allowed Jim Crow laws, have not changed significantly in 30 years. If they had, then we would finally see equality. Even today, the curse of discriminations still colors our society.
With such little time in between legalized discrimination and the present time, I think that if, in 30 years, things have not changed for the better, we need new methods to finally accelerate the equality of Blacks. I do not believe that time is the only thing that must pass to make our society equal, though.
Laws have been passed that make discrimination illegal. And yet, opinions can barely be deemed illegal. I think that the issue of today is maybe not a legal one, but a social one. Bills have made Jim Crow laws illegal, and there is still racism, displayed in cartoons of President Obama as a monkey, and where people display slogans like, “R.I.P America 1776-2008.” People still have racist views, despite the laws that try to make these opinions defunct. I have come to the conclusion that we need more than bills to solve this problem.
W.E.B. Du Bois states that “A little less complaint and whining, and a little more dogged work and manly striving, would do us more credit than a thousand civil rights bills.” I agree with him in this aspect. Bills are a poor substitute for action. The majority needs to find some kind of motivation to make society equal.
I think that the laws that have been past that make discrimination illegal are a starting point, but that the social part of discrimination has still not been addressed.

How can a social overhaul be made to solve this aspect of racism?

To what extent to you think President Obama’s election has affected racial inequality?

Suzanne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Luke said...

Luke C.

After re-reading chapters 6 and 2 of Zinn, one thought became omnipresent, resounding in my mind until I found the words to express it in text. This thought became difficult for me to grasp, as I denied that my nation, one that stood for freedom and equality, could support such a terrible realization. However abhorrent an idea, I became increasingly aware that if citizens of the United States want to perpetuate inequality, consciously or in a state of political trance, it will be so. I truly believe that cultural inferiority is as ingrained in our society as anything can possibly be, and is one of the pillars upon which our society rests, as unpleasant a truth as that is. As Zinn has stated, "There is not a country in world history in which racism has been more important, for so long a time, as the United States," (Drawing the Color Line) a fact which I cannot dispute. As seen early in our nation's history up until this very day, there has naught been a period in which cheap labor hasn't been in demand. Initially, as our nation was forming, "The Virginians needed labor, to grow corn for subsistence, to grow tobacco for export... it brought a high price..." (Drawing the Color Line). The necessary labor was brought in as black, and white, servants, but the blacks were quickly ushered into the embryonic institution of slavery. Although, no, we do not still practice slavery, we do utilize a manipulative system in which blacks, along with other nonwhite peoples, preform the lower paying professions. Undeniably, this system is, and was, most profitable for the elite white society. Amongst this elite white population includes our nation's most influential politicians, who, in an effort to advance their own financial and social position, will work to preserve any institution, even those which mistreat others. This was clearly demonstrated throughout our history, as "The United States government's support of slavery was based on an overpowering practicality," (Slavery Without Submission, Emancipation Without Freedom). After experiencing the lucrative advantages of racial inequality, the white citizens of the United States were not willing to give up the seemingly infinite possibilities that accompanied slavery, and it seemed that "It would take... a full-scale war to end such a deeply entrenched system," (Slavery Without Submission, Emancipation Without Freedom). Such a war was experienced, the deadliest in American history, claiming approximately 600,000 lives, and, hopefully, not even those who vehemently support complete equality would be willing to sacrifice another half million lives on a potentially unsuccessful attempt. As I said earlier, the white peoples of America are, perhaps unknowingly, supporting inequality, and have been for almost a half millennium. "One overseer told a visitor to his plantation that 'some negroes are determined never to let a white man whip them and will resist you, when you attempt it; of course you must kill them in that case,'" (Slavery Without Submission, Emancipation Without Freedom). Even though this overseer threatened the lives of his slaves, it is more than likely that he felt justified in his actions, as, in his mind, he was entitled to his control of the peoples he had so long reaped enormous benefits from. This is similar to the modern workforce, as it is expected that the subordinate negro should be respectful of his "well qualified", higher paid, superiors. These intentional actions are meant to preserve the inferior status of minorities, and in turn further the whites position in society. Fortunately, our society has progressed beyond the ideals of slavery, yet one can only imagine what it was like for someone of the time to be treated as an animal. Zinn asks the important question "...can statistics record what it meant for families to be torn apart, when a master, for profit, sold a husband or a wife, a son or a daughter?" (Slavery Without Submission, Emancipation Without Freedom). How can I know, especially after growing as a wealthy, white, male, the wrenching agony one experiences when the plants around you are worth more than your very life? I believe that I cannot, but it is possible for me to gain some insight, some fraction of a glimpse, by reviewing the experiences of those who have survived the brutality of the institution known as slavery. By this very sentiment I find the conditions of slavery, being quite possibly the most brutal situation one can face, to be equal to its existence. Yes, its existence has shaped the future of our society, but it is undeniable that the physical and emotional anguish that generations of blacks had to endure was equally disturbing.

The following ideas are in response to Cole's statement, "...blacks need to be given the tools to advance themselves economically and socially." First, I believe once peoples have the economic means to comfortably support themselves and their loved ones, they will, whether it be gradually or almost instantaneously, advance socially as well. While you say blacks aren't given the tools to advance themselves, I believe that they most certainly do. Take, for example, inner city Cleveland, Ohio. When I compare the graduation rate of students at John Marshall High School in Cleveland, 70.9% of all black students, 73.3% of all Hispanic students, and 83.3% of all Asian students graduated in 2006, while only 58.9% of all white students graduated. Although both averages seem low from our perspective, when compared to the average graduation rate of most inner city schools, 50%, black, Hispanic, and Asian (the "minorities") students showed a significant increase upon the average, whereas whites just barely raised above the norm. In this case, obviously, whites and blacks are receiving the same " to advance themselves..." yet clearly one race is putting forth more effort in achieving the goals they desire. By the same token, when schools are seen with 50% graduation rates of blacks, they are provided with the tools to succeed, they simply choose not to use them. It isn't realistic to assume every school, in every town, across our entire nation will have the exact standard of education, as different places are endowed with different economic situations. Simply choosing not to graduate is making a conscious effort to give up. With a high school diploma you can usually get into your state university, or at the very least, a community college. Each of these options require effort, obviously something people of this time aren't used to putting forth, but they are options.

Diane said...

I agree with Suzanne that bills should be established to help reduce racism and abolish discrimination, but exactly how far can the power of the government extend in this issue? As Suzanne also said, each person of America is entitled to an opinion, and it is stated in the first amendment of our Bill of Rights that “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech or of the press”(Constitutional Sources); it seems that any steps that the government could take to repress demonstrations of racism would be in violation of American civil rights. This is probably a result of the social conditions that were present during the time of the constitution’s creation; in 1787, other races were generally not considered comparable to white men. As a result, it is truly up to modern reinvention of our social system to abolish racism. The people need to accept all other races as equals, regardless of superficial and cultural differences.

To answer Suzanne’s other questions, I am not sure that there is one specific way for a “social overhaul” to be conducted. I am sure, however, that efforts must be made to educate upcoming generations of the importance and value of racial diversity. I think that if Americans of all cultures can learn to not only coexist peacefully, but to collaborate, we can, with time, learn to abandon our feelings of racism. Although that sounds pretty hippie-ish, I think that it could be a worthwhile goal for the American people.

Also, I feel that President Obama’s election has provided great hope for the eventual elimination of racism, but has only moderately affected the condition of racial inequality. Barack Obama’s election has been described by Mwai Kibaki, the president of Kenya, as a victory that serves as an “inspiration to millions of people all over the world”(Reuters). In America, he is recognized for making the impossible, possible, and overcoming the racial ignorance of today to take the electoral office. He is the current symbol of hope and change, in both the societal standing of America and the condition of racial discrimination. However, I think that his election could have had a larger impact on racial inequality. He has inspired a lot of hope and incited conversations about change of the racial scene in America, but, as Jelani Cobb, a professor of African American history in Spelman college, stated that these conversations are “about entrenched legacies of privilege and underprivilege. So in some ways, these conversations are a substitute for other kinds of more meaningful reform or interaction”(Thompson).

Joanna said...

I agree with Haylee in that time will heal a lot of these wounds, but not all. Haylee said that education is important in overcoming cultural inferiority and I agree. As said by "John Hope, a young black man in Georgia...if we are not striving for equality, in heaven's name what are we fighting for" (Zinn 209)? I agree with Hope in that the ultimate goal must never be lost sight of: equality. The principles on which this country was formed are what keep this nation great and united. I believe that as long as we call Barack Obama the first black president we still have issues with cultural inferiority. Tyra Banks once said that as long as we point out the black people in Hollywood, even if it for their accomplishments, we still have an issue with racism. I agree because as long as the labels exist so will the problems. Zinn cites a classroom conversation in Kentucky post Civil War where teachers encouraged equality, or so they say, the teacher said" [blacks] are no better, but they are different,... what makes them different then you? " in response the students replied "Money" (201)! Now if equality was really trying to be achieved then the teacher would not have said equal but different. In fact, this phrase reminds me of the "separate but equal" phrase coined in the 1950s supreme court case. Cultural inferiority can only be overcome with the right type of education, not just any type. I believe that after the Civil War the south educated their children on blacks, but they did it in a half hearted way, giving children mixed views, which I believe are still present today. Everyone knows that racism is wrong, but I believe that Affirmative Action helps racism perpetuate.
Affirmative Action perpetuates animosity between races, and continues to bring up the cultural differences, as opposed to similarities. As long as I have to bubble in my race the issue of racism is still very much alive, and can only be overcome when Americans stop dividing the races. In order to overcome racism I believe that it takes time as well as education that doesn't mention race at all, because if our children do not know how they are different from blacks, but only that we are all Americans, then I believe that issue of racism is obliterated.
With this being said, I still think that it is of vital importance to describe slavery in education so that history will not "rhyme", as Ms. Schager likes to say. In 6th grade we went on Nature's Classroom and they did an underground railroad evening in which we were chained and "beaten". This experience was amazing to me because I actually felt the oppression, if only for a few hours. However, I do not believe that slavery can be fully explained because the original slaves are dead. This is a fact we will have to accept and describe slavery as best we can through primary documents and exercises such as Nature's Classroom.
I believe that the conditions of slavery are just as important as the existence of slavery. As said by a black man in the early 20th century "Where I come from/folks work hard/ all their lives/ until they die/ and never own no part/ or earth nor sky" (Takaki 342). Slavery had long been abolished by this point, but Jim Crow Laws and Grandfather Clauses were still very much in existence. Just because of the Amendments to the Constitution abolishing slavery, it doesn't mean that slaves have the level of freedom that we expect in our lives. Just because a black man could own property, doesn't mean that any land owner would sell it to him. In fact I believe that after slavery was abolished it existed in a much more detrimental way. Blacks had an illusion of freedom that they could never attain, which was far worse then knowing they had no rights from the get-go. I agree with Emily C. in that these topics are hard to address because people are stubborn in changing their views, but these topics must be addressed to achieve the level of freedom that we hold so dear, and this level of freedom must be given to every American because, after all, the right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" must be granted to all Americans in its entirety.

Michael said...
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Michael said...

Mike B

Some believe that overcoming racial inferiority will occur over time, that the power of equality will eventually penetrate even the most bigoted minds. However, the theory that equality can only be attained when “the inherent racism of the slave generations died out” (Nicole) is unlike Martin Luther King Jr’s. In a letter from the Birmingham Jail, King Jr. said, “If the cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. Because the goal of America is freedom, abused and scorned tho' we may be, our destiny is tied up with America's destiny” (thinkexist). He believed that hard working freedom fighters will obtain equality because of their persistence. They will not cease to stop until all Americans TRULY see everyone as equal, no matter their race, color, sex, or religious affiliation. This could feasibly occur once all racist ideals are lost, but has slavery ever been forgotten? Racism might never naturally leave society; therefore MLK believes that Americans need to destroy it. Who is going to stop such a powerful force from overcoming prejudice if they were strong enough to uproot the deeply established system of slavery?

MLK’s plan for ending racism is quite simple; if America continues to demonstrate its passion for liberty and equality, progress towards eradicating racism will increase. This is because the American government would receive severe opposition if they were freeing one group of people while suppressing another. However, this ideal is disowned by America’s recent activity in Iraq. The Bush Administration justified Operation Iraqi Freedom as an attempt to spread democracy and equality to a trouble ridden country (wikipedia.). While the government increased promotion of liberty overseas, domestically, prejudice and discrimination were still running rampant. King Jr., the most prominent figure in the civil rights movement, is optimistic that cultural inferiority will be overcome if America continues to express ideals of equality, however history shows that this might not be the case

Michael said...

Mike B again.

During February break, I took a trip to South Vietnam. While on a bike tour through the slums of Saigon, our tour guide who I had met for less than an hour asked me if schools were separated by race. He was surprised to find out that most had at least a little diversity. He continued to ask how severe the racial discrimination was in our country. I told him that it still occurs, but it is outlawed. This incident made me wonder if we really could overcome cultural inferiority. The roots of racism are so deeply intertwined into our society that maybe they can’t be pulled out. Howard Zinn, renowned American historian, stated that, “There is not a country in world history in which racism has been more important, for so long a time, as the United States” (Drawing the Color Line). In order to be free of prejudice, Americans must have a revolution of the mind. Stereotypes must be erased and never could be created again. However, this theory could never be feasible because we would have to completely expunge history. Also, the entire world characterizes Americans as racists, which can be seen through my experiences in Vietnam. Therefore, we would constantly be reminded of our mistakes, which would cause the revolution to fail. If other countries still believe that we are discriminatory, then cultural inferiority can never be achieved. Through my experiences, people who live in horrific conditions under a corrupt government still asked if our country was racist. Therefore, I have very little faith that we will be able to surmount racism in our nation. The Countess of Marquerite stated, “Prejudices are the chains forged by ignorance to keep men apart” (Thinkexist). Maybe that is just the way we all intended it to be.

I swear to the Lord

I still can't see

Why Democracy means

Everybody but me
~Langston Hughes, The Black Man Speaks

Chester said...

This is Chester and the first thing I want to say is that I agree with what Nicole and Emily said about time being the only thing that could possibly heal racism in the United States. Although this is true, there will always be people who have feelings of dislike and even hatred towards people who are different from them. Throughout history there have been examples of racism such as the holocaust and the genocides in Rwanda and Darfur. Slavery is an example of racism as well. Some of the slaves that were brutally beaten in America were princes and kings in their African tribes. Even though there were both kings and peasants brought over to America to be slaves, they all had the “…special helplessness of the displaced African (Zinn 38),” once they arrived in the United States. It just goes to show that no matter how much money you have, if you are different in skin color or religious beliefs you will be treated the same as everyone else who happens to be a minority.
As Zinn says on page 23, “Is it possible for whites and blacks to live together without hatred?”There are plenty of racist groups today such as the KKK, skinheads, Black Panthers, Taliban that inflict terror and fear into people all over the world. For example, in America everyone is paranoid of being attacked by the Taliban again. Going through airport security, the members of the TSA tend to watch people wearing turbans much closer than those who walk into line wearing a Yankees cap. There is always going to be unfair treatment of different races all over the entire world, not just America. The good news is that over time it will dwindle slowly until, hopefully, there is no more hatred for each other and everyone is an equal.

kelley said...

I agree with Suzanne in that it would take more than just time passing to overcome slavery. In Chapter 2, Zinn states, "The point is that the elements of this web are historical, not 'natural'" (Zinn 38). It was the condition of our country that created the idea of slavery, with the depression of Jamestown, helplessness of African culture, and the obvious profits that came from the work done by Africans. I don't think time itself can undo something so severe that we once created. With such a strong presence in our country's history, Zinn points out that, "'the color line' still with us" (Zinn 23). Although it may not be as severe as it once was, the "color line" has not yet been overcome. I think that in order to overcome this racism, a lot more needs to happen than just time passing. The "color line" went through each generation in our country, and although it has become weaker, it is still there. With the election of Barack Obama as the President of the United States, it is clear that we are making progress with this issue. In regard to people believing that time passing will heal the problem of racism, it is clear that this was not the case with Obama. It wasn't just time that allowed our country to elect an African American as President. As Thomas L. Friedman stated in "Let Reconstruction Begin", it took many events to occur before this election could take place, like, "Brown v. Board of Education, Martin Luther King’s I-have-a-dream crusade and the 1964 Civil Rights Act." Sacrifices were made in order for this election to take place, and many more would have to be made to completely demolish the "color line".

SABRES said...
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Rose said...

Rosie L.
First and foremost, in response to Diane’s ideas of coexistence, I feel that unfortunately coexistence and diminishing cultural inferiority isn’t ever going to be fully possible. Yes, maybe coexistence will work for a short period of time but at some point in time conflict is bound to break out… All throughout the world, countries, regions and races are trying to coexist equally but so far history has shown it’s impossible. The Palestinians and Israelis were able to establish peace for a short period of time, yet only recently conflict broke out again over the topic of land. …Completely erasing all feeling of racisms is impossible, just like complete coexistence is too. Maybe in the future only one person will have feelings against co-existing with another culture of sorts, but its still cultural inferiority. Abandoning all feelings of racism is a good idea, but highly unrealistic. As we are going through recession, and presented with the prospect another economic depression, an unrealistic goal is simply affordable. What America needs now is a solution, to get back to its previous good state of being (in terms of the economy) before adding more to it's already full plate of problems.
I strongly agree with Luke that “cultural inferiority is as ingrained in our society as anything can be”. Cultural inferiority and racist attitudes are everywhere in our society today, whether in movies, media or everyday life. First off, in terms of the media, have you ever seen an African American, Hispanic, Latino, or Asian newscaster? I have never seen anyone other than white, evidently privileged, people who are free from accents and any kinds of cultural affiliations. America is not at the stage where it can present the news from anyone of a culture other than white, CNN and Fox still present their information from the “white man”. Additionally, racist attitudes are still present in the movies we watch and television shows American people view today. For example, the movie of “Hairspray” was made in the 1960’s, and it is clear there are differences between the black and white people. Any kinds of interactions were generally shamed upon, and the make sure to emphasize the differences between them whether different water fountains or making them sound and act different from each other. Yes, that was the 1960’s, and it was the prime time to deal with segregation, but what is it saying when the movie was redone merely over a year ago? It’s saying, Hey America, we still have our feelings of cultural inferiority and racist attitudes despite the abolishment of segregation…we still are separate but equal (to some degree)…then to now, it’s no different. As reported in Zinn, the New York Times, a big center for information nation wide, wrote in 1900 “suppression of the Negro vote. . .. The necessity of it under the supreme law of self-preservation is candidly recognized."” (Slavery Without Submission, Emancipation Without Proclamation) On a personal level, I know cultural inferiority is present in my life. My mother and father still refuse to let me go out to the SoNo Movie Theater on a Friday or Saturday night. Why? Because it’s the “not so nice part of town…bad people are there...its dangerous to be there with friends”. They prefer for me to go to the Bowtie Theater, since they claim it is “closer and safer”. As even my parents, the farthest from discriminating people establish the idea that I can’t go to the South Norwalk movie theater because mostly African American people of a lower social class attend there, then cultural inferiority is existing in full speed. Sorry America, you haven’t really moved far on the journey to destroying cultural inferiority. Another aspect of American society, which is promoting cultural inferiority, although maybe not intentional, is the diversity poster. These diversity posters omnipresent throughout the country contain a statement to accept others despite their culture and ideas, but the posters for America with pictures of people from multicultural backgrounds and races just justifies the cultural differences in America. As they distinguish between people of different races, religions etc. they are showing the differences between people. If America was truly unified together and no longer feeling some degrees of cultural inferiority to others, then they would just have a picture of the flag maybe and promoting diversity would be necessary?
Race and culture is still used to distinguish people today, just like how it was years ago. Like Zinn said, in 1617 ““it was natural to consider imported blacks as slaves” and nowadays it is natural to consider America diverse. However, as said before, mentioning diversity, we are acknowledging and promoting cultural inferiority. Also, With the African Americans, they were forced to endure segregation, almost no civil rights or liberties and had to work under the wrath of other men up until the year 1865, and native Americans faced cultural inferiority all throughout expansion as they were pushed out of their lands. All the government wanted was to “exterminate them” (Takaki, 92) As shown in Takaki, Chapter four ““independent nations within the states and such “foreign’ governments could not be tolerated and the Indians would have to submit to state authority” (Takaki, 87). Anything culturally different than those in the government is inferior, then and now. Maybe slavery is gone, segregation is gone, Native Americans are living in the USA, and America is no longer split into the Confederacy/Union, but cultural inferiority is still here; times haven’t changed all that dramatically.
One of the big reasons America is faced with cultural inferiority is due to social and economic status. However, simply giving the “inferior peoples” -anyone who isn’t upper class privileged whites- money and power won’t demolish the rudiments of the cultural inferiority. Once corrupted or in existence, it will always be there. As bad as this metaphor sounds, it’s just like a tattoo. Some people choose to get tattooed on impulse, others to a make a statement or because they like them etc., but suppose they want it gone. The individual can have it removed via laser surgery of sorts, but the scarring will always be there. The memory of getting the tattoo cannot be obliterated, nor is the remaining scar and that effort put into getting the tattoo able to be regained. Subsequently, the cultural inferiority existing in America cannot be fully erased; some form of cultural differences will always be left over. Even when America is blessed with the day of seeing all as equal, despite gender, sexuality, income, culture, race or religion the feelings of cultural inferiority will still be there; simply put underneath the surface for some time, which could rise up at any point in time.
Also, not to sound cynical, but cultural inferiority going bye-bye is impossible to achieve. Its taken the USA over 2009 years to get as far as electing a black man for president. Yes, Barack Obama represents change and a new race but he is a comfortable step for America. In fact, Barack Obama is only half African American and America was searching for change in out desperate times of possible depression and economic recession. I would like to hope that cultural inferiority can be overcome, but I honestly feel it cant. It took America so long to abolish slavery and then abolish rights, not even counting the time before people began rebelling. By the time we are close to overcoming cultural inferiority, another war of sorts will have most likely broken out. Now, as the economy goes down people are becoming more primitive and the primitive view of America was racist. In addition, I believe that there is no way to fully overcome cultural inferiority. America doesn’t treat people from other countries like equal now, which is obvious even on standardized tests and how they have special “esol” classes for students who aren’t great with English. Although the ones who are culturally inferior might appear as acceptance within society, it is false. Not only because some forms of discrimination to others will always exist, and its simply human nature to do so, but the culturally inferior ones are made to stand out by our government. Have you ever noticed how in those “help” commercials they always feature someone of a culture other than white American??
Reducing cultural inferiority completely is impossible: look at Zinn chapter 9 “During a period when neither the State nor the nation faced any sort of exterior threat, we find that Virginia felt the need to maintain a security force roughly ten percent of the total number of its inhabitants: black and white, male and female, slave and free!” (Slavery Without Submission, Emancipation Without Proclamation) In 1831, there were no known problems in the state of Virginia nor in the nation, yet people were still compelled to distinguish cultures and people. No matter what is done, cultural inferiority will be present in our lives, even if an individual is not aware of it.

The reality of slavery can never truly be described. Yes, there might be museums and videos and pictures to try and illustrate its horrors, but it’s not the real thing. This reminds me of a movie, I watched in 6th grade social studies: Roots. Roots told the story of a black slave called Quintakinte (sp.?) who had to endure whippings, being torn away from his family, and being forced to work under others. He was captured in Africa then brought over to America to work. The movie showed him being whipped, and how he was hurt from it- it made me feel sad and emotional, but it’s not the same thing as being there. Coincidentally, Roots is simply one of the parts of the Roots series used to illustrate slavery. After watching the movie, I felt like at that time, that I had “experienced” slavery and I could comprehend it fully. Now looking back, that was an oblivious and false thought. Nobody else is able to endure the horrors as the slaves had to. Maybe stories have been passed on by generations, but it’s not the same. Like Zinn said, “Economists or cliometricians (statistical historians) have tried to assess slavery by estimating how much money was spent on slaves for food and medical care” (Slavery Without Submission, Emancipation Without Freedom) but the horror cannot be described. Even as I am trying to institute the fact that it is horrible and indescribable, I can’t say truly how bad it was; I wasn’t there, experiencing slavery first hand. Also in Zinn, Chapter nine it shows how the slaves were laughing, singing and dancing at night, making it appear as a positive institution. However, in reality “[the slaves] did it to keep down trouble, and to keep [their] hearts from being completely broken” (Slavery Without Submission, Emancipation Without Proclamation).

Catherine said...
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Catherine said...

I believe that cultural inferiority can be overcome.

I think that it is reasonable to compare the Women's Rights movement to the Civil Rights movement. Zinn quoted Julia Spruill which states that a "husband took any other income that might be [his wife's]. He collected wages earned by her labor..."(107) In a previous chapter Zinn stated "..elements that made american slavery that most cruel for of slavery in history: the frenzy for limitless profit". The Husbands treatment of a wife closely correlates with the masters treatment of a slave. In chapter 6 Zinn says "Eighteen married women came over on the Mayflower.... by spring, only four of those eighteen women were still alive" and then in chapter 2 when discussing the conditions of the slave ships, he states that, "under these conditions perhaps one of every three blacks transported overseas died," There is an undeniable parallel between Women's rights and African rights.

I think that the fact that Women are considered as equals in our society today, and that Hilary Clinton was one of the primary candidates for the 2008 presidential election proves that cultural inferiority can be overcome.

Although the equality of African Americans is still a battle, I think that it is simply a matter of time before we will look back on our generation and realize the ludicrousness of judging or stereotyping people based on the color of their skin.I believe that this will happen sooner then later especially since the election of President Obama. In the article that Mrs.Schager linked on the website Thomas L. Friedman said "The struggle for equal rights is far from over, but we start afresh now from a whole new baseline"

jkasanoff said...
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jkasanoff said...

Cultural inferiority, between blacks and whites, at least, can be overcome, but only by the people who haven’t worked to overcome it. Essentially, equality is not equality if it is notable. This is most evident in our recent election. The fact that Obama’s victory inspired so much celebration (Thomas Friedman of the New York Times even stated that “the Civil war is finally over”) is in itself acceptance of a lack of equality. The election of a black man might mean that the color of one’s skin doesn’t matter, but this is nullified by the celebration of the color of his skin.

The stereotype that whites are better than blacks still exists. It’s evident when we are excited for the first black president, and it is evident even in recent studies that show that blacks subconciously place themselves below whites. According to the New York Times, a test taken before Obama’s election by blacks and whites and a test taken after revealed that blacks and whites could score on the same level (their performance went up significantly after Obama’s election) but were held back by something ( Thus, it is evident Obama’s election has helped in some regards, but it is also evident that a stereotype still exists in black’s minds.

Robert Jenson, in his book, “The Heart of Whiteness,” captures the trace of racism left still left in whites, as well. He says that “a fear has probably always haunted white people but has become more powerful since the society has formally rejected overt racism: The fear of being seen, and seen-through, by non-white people” ( Whites are afraid of blacks identifiying some hint of racism within them. By trying so hard to not be racist, we become racist. We split down lines, saying we should be fair to all black people, that they can become president, and therefore we do not forget who is black and who is white. We call attention to it.

I belive that our generation can never overcome the acceptance cultural inferiority because we are hyperaware of the existence of such an acceptance. However, the next generation can. A white child born now may see Obama as his or her President and think nothing of it. By not realizing what a milestone for equality this is, he or she will accept true equality.

I also believe that slavery can never be described to someone on the outside of it, but I also believe that it many ways it is worsened in retrospect. People are used to more equality today, and thus the lack of such equality is horrifying. But in those times, it was not as if whites were evil and blacks were saints. It was the status quo. For the purposes of proving his point, Zinn tries very hard to make slavery sound as bad as possible (But can statistics record what it meant for families to be torn apart, when a master, for profit, sold a husband or a wife, a son or a daughter?). Obviously, I think slavery is awful, but perhaps in those times, it was not as awful as it seems. Not all slaves were being whipped (0.7 per hand per year, half weren't whipped at all) and it seems they may have simply accepted that that was the way things were.

SABRES said...

This is Nick M and I have no idea why my name is showing up as Sabres (my favorite hockey team)!!!

I agree with Nicole and am optimistic that eventually time will solve the issue of overcoming the cultural inferiority of blacks. However, in order for this issue to be fully overcome, I also believe that in order for blacks to be fully accepted into our culture, we as a society must ensure that blacks receive an education and have educational opportunities much more equal to whites than they are currently are. Malcolm X, a human rights activist, said, “Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today” (thinkexist). Unfortunately and very much to their disadvantage, many blacks are born in poor communities such Harlem, where they receive a vastly inferior education to that generally available to whites. Their schools are unable to hire enough teachers (and enough qualified teachers), buy adequate new textbooks, and provide new and useful technology because of the lack of money. This lack of a proper education, makes it much more difficult for blacks to escape from the cycle of poverty and to move up to a higher social class.

At the end of 2005 there were 3,145 black male prison inmates per 100,000 in the United States compared to 471 white male inmates per 100,000 (Bureau of Justice of Statistics) and according to the Human Rights Watch, “Nationwide, black men are sent to prison on drug charges at 13 times the rate of white men.” I believe that these statistics are so not because blacks are as a race more inclined to commit crime, but rather due to their lower social status. In other words, this is an issue of poverty, not an issue of race. In order to survive in their abject living conditions, many blacks often have to revert to crime and become vulnerable to drug use. I believe that the government needs to give more money to public schools to address the inferior education that many black children are receiving. This will allow blacks to more quickly move up to a higher social class and until the number of blacks in this country exiting the lower class and moving into the middle class greatly increases, our society will not fully overcome the cultural inferiority of blacks. Howard Zinn, a famous social historian, said, “If racism can’t shown to be natural, then it is the result of certain conditions, and we are impelled to eliminate those conditions” (Zinn 31). I believe there is no better way to eliminate these “conditions” then to ensure that black children receive a proper education.

However, I also believe that simply making a better education available to blacks will not alone overcome this problem. It is critically important that the parents of black children who are living in poverty teach their children to take their education seriously and to understand the benefits of a good education and the harm of not taking education seriously. In a memoir by James McBride entitled, The Color of Water, the author describes his troubled childhood. McBride grew up in the Red Hook projects of Brooklyn with 11 brothers and sisters. His mother was forced to bring up her 12 kids all by herself, since her husband had died. She worked multiple jobs in order to provide for her whole family and was able to send her kids to various schools throughout New York. She always told her kids, “Educate yourself or you’ll be a nobody!” Through her continuing focus on making sure her children were aware of the importance of a good education, all 12 of her children received this message and went to college. All of these children were able to escape life in the projects and were able to have successful careers and have families in much better neighborhoods. The involvement of parents in their children’s education is critical to their children’s success and therefore greater involvement by parents of black children in their children’s education would greatly improve their children’s chances of escaping poverty and would greatly serve to overcome the issue of the cultural inferiority of blacks.

Suzanne said...

To respond to what Diane said, debating about the significance of Obama’s election (beside the obvious), I have to tell a little story that happened at the dinner table.

My father and I were talking about President Obama’s election at the kitchen table one night. We agreed that his election was something wonderful, and something that was finally happening, but we also got past the initial reasoning and started questioning things deeper. Is assuming the Barack Obama will bring racial equality just as racists as our ancestors were?

I immediately thought that all people of minority should be happy with President Obama’s election, but when I thought about what I had just said, I realized that I was judging him based on the color of his skin, and assuming things about an entire race. How could one black man, for me, represent the plight of all blacks in America? Although this is hard for me to say, where I considered myself so open-minded, it pains me to think about my initial reaction.

In reality, not all black people agree with Obama’s election. Reverend Jesse Jackson is famously quoted as saying that “See, Barack has been, um, talking down to black people,” (CNN). After saying he simply didn’t realize his microphone was still on, he continued to do some damage control.

As Aysha Hussain of the magazine “Diversity Inc” states my ideas perfectly. “Obama is clearly a black man, but is this really a breakthrough? Some blacks say Obama isn’t ‘black enough,’” (

I disagree with Thomas Friedman’s statement of “the Civil War is finally over.” Although it is obvious how significant Obama’s election is, I think that it is important to not take it for more than it is. While one black man in presidency is great, how can we possibly think that he will speak for thousands on his own? We need more than one perspective to be known and trusted and in influence from the black population to even think for a second that our society is unbiased, or equal.

CNN reports “an Obama victory could cause white Americans to ignore entrenched racial divisions while claiming that America has reached the racial Promised Land.” Paul Street, author of the forthcoming book “Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics” says that “Obama risks being an Oval Office version of talk-show host Oprah Winfrey…whose popularity allows some white Americans to congratulate themselves for not being racist” (CNN). Street says that "This isn't new. Go to the 19th century, and Southern aristocrats would point to a certain African-American landowner who was doing well to prove that whites are not racist" (CNN).

I am not trying to argue that President Obama’s election was not a good thing, or not a breakthrough, because I believe it was, and still is. However, I think it’s also important to realize that this is a drop in the bucket, and we are so far from a final social upheaval of all racist ideas. Obama is one man. It’s silly to think of him as a final solution.

Stephanie said...

This is Stephanie N.
I have to disagree with Catherine’s comment.
I do not think that women are equal in our society, however I do think that the fight for rights of both African Americans and women are somewhat similar. According to a survey done by the U.S. department of labor entitled “Highlights of Women’s Earning in 2002”, “White women earned just 78.2 percent as much as white men in 2002” (1). I think that differences in wages is a primary indicator of the inferiority between men and women. However, on the issue of a lower status for African-Americans, according to the same survey, “White workers of either gender earned more than their black or Hispanic counterparts in 2002, although the differences among women were much smaller than those among men” (1). To give some idea of these numbers, white women earned $549 whereas African-American women earned only $474 and Hispanic women earned only $396 (1). Between men, the differences were even greater with white men earning $702, African-American men earned $523 and Hispanic men earned $449 (1). These figures clearly show the disparity in the workforce between not only men and women, but between whites and African-Americans and Hispanics.
While Barack Obama being elected president and Hilary Clinton as a candidate in the democratic primarys are a step in the right direction, I don’t think that complete equality between the races/genders can ever really be achieved. As Zinn said, there was a period after the Civil War in which African-Americans voted and were elected into office, a resemblance of equality for the time, but “it was only a matter of time before blacks would be reduced once again to condition not far from slavery” (p.203). After the Civil War, African-Americans appeared to be equal to whites, but were they really? And how long could that really last? Obama is the first black president, but are blacks now equal? Obama is only half-African-American and, in my opinion, that made him a safe choice for people who might not have voted for another black candidate. In addition to that, many people just didn’t want another Republican president so went with the Democratic candidate.
Cultural inferiority is not something that I think can be healed with time. Northerners still call Southerners names and vice versa. I think that because of human nature we like to categorize people and then make judgments based on those categories. For example, if you see an obese person, you might then judge them as “lazy”, when really it could be a genetic condition that makes it hard for them to maintain a healthy weight. When white people look at African-Americans, they see a difference and make judgments based on that difference. There is no way to stop people from recognizing these differences and therefore there is no way for true racial equality to be reached. Joanna said that “as long as the labels exist so will the problem”. As long as people see color, some form of racism will always be present in our society.


Emily C. said...

In response to Rosie's post

"Also, not to sound cynical, but cultural inferiority going bye-bye is impossible to achieve. Its taken the USA over 2009 years (????) to get as far as electing a black man for president."

I have to disagree with your comment. With the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, the United States government was officially formed. 232 years later an African American was elected president. While 232 years may seem to be a long time, compared to the spans of other countries, it is relatively small. How many other countries, which may have been in existence for three or four times longer than America (Great Britain...) can say that they have elected a black man as president? So perhaps America is far closer to overcoming a perceived cultural inferiority of African Americans than it seems.

Contradictorily, Barack Obama, like you said may be a more of a "comfortable step for America." He is not what I would define as the stereotypical, "culturally inferior" African American. None the less, I think that by electing any African American to America's highest political office is a step, in the right direction, toward eradicating perceived cultural inferiority. During the Civil War an African American was described as "inept, lazy, corrupt, and ruinous to the governments of the South when they were in office." (Zinn, Slavery w/o Submission...). I don't think that anyone referred to Barack Obama as this.

So, while I think that it is quite possible to eliminate a perceived cultural inferiority, African Americans and other minority groups should not be ostracized for the differences that exist between them and whites. If another African American were to run for president, I would say that America would be far closer to exterminating this perceived cultural inferiority if his race was hardly acknowledged.

Elizabeth said...

As many have already argued, I believe time is one crucial component in overcoming cultural inferiority. But I believe many elements that contribute to the continued cultural inferiority of today are the perceived notions people still have, that blacks think they’re inferior and that whites think they’re superior. Last night, I was watching television with my friends. During one commercial, about seven different children spoke, to which I was surprised that all of them were black. Of course I felt somewhat wrong pointing that out, but when my friends told me we were watching the Black Entertainment Television station, I was utterly shocked. I didn’t know that such a channel existed. How does having a different television station specifically for only blacks, help with the integration of races? As Zinn said in chapter two, Drawing the Color Line, “If racism, can’t be shown to be natural, then it is the result of certain conditions, and we are impelled to eliminate those conditions.” I believe that cultural inferiority can be overcome because it is not an inborn quality but an opinion that is developed within society. Zinn also said that, “in spite of such preconceptions about blackness, in spite of special subordination of blacks in the Americas in the seventeenth century, there is evidence that where whites and blacks found themselves with common problems, common work, common enemy in their master, they behaved toward one another as equals.” People of different races are capable of accepting each other and working together. Yet the racist ideas might be so imprinted into the minds of all that they have accepted it to be true over the course of time. I believe part of the problem is that people expect there to be racism, and will demote themselves to how they think society will see them. I used to have a best friend that was black when growing up. We were exactly the same, but as we got older she changed. She started talking differently, she started dressing differently, and she stopped hanging out with me and started hanging out with others. Unfortunately, for awhile, the first thing that came to mind whenever I thought of her after that was ghetto. It had always confused me, and now I think it’s because that’s how she expects society to see her, and so that’s how she is. People just have to get past the idea that one race could be better than the other. Just get over it. I liked what Curtis said earlier, that “the beauty of America allows individuals to rise to power and fortune, no matter what class or race the individual is. Blacks do not need to be given any tools or resources to advance themselves economically and socially.” It is much easier said than done, but I believe cultural inferiority can be overcome if people can rise above how they stereotypically view a particular race. I also like what Nicole said, that “maybe true equality is an asymptote that humans will never be able to reach.” It’s hard not to judge. But it can be improved.

rachel said...
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rachel said...

No, I do not believe that cultural inferiority can be overcome. Although, idealistically we all live in a society in which all men are created equal, realistically people treat others of different races differently, and the idea of equality which is stated in the Declaration of Independance and the U.S Constitution, is just that, an idea. Although our country has definitely progressed in breaking down the cultural boundary, like electing President Obama, we have not even come close to completely eliminating everybody’s racist views and ways. Even with Obama as president, which automatically makes everyone think that our country has changed, it is vital to look at who exactly elected Obama. When you do this, you will find out that the majority of whites indeed did not vote for him, but McCain. As much as 55% of the white population voted for McCain, and Obama “…won 95% of the black vote, compared to just 4% for Mr McCain”( Clearly, each race chose the candidate of the same race to be their president. Stated by Zinn, “The point is that the elements of this [(slavery)] web are historical, not “natural.” This does not mean that they are easily disentangled, dismantled. It only means that there is a possibility for something else, under historical conditions not yet realized. And one of these conditions would be the elimination of that class exploitation which has made poor whites desperat e for small gifts of status, and has prevented that unity of black and white necessary for joint rebellion and reconstruction”(Zinn 38). He makes a point that correcting history, and slavery to be more specific, is not something that is going to be easily done. In order to fix this ongoing issue, or one of the ways, is to break down the class system and give more benefits to those of the lower class so that whites will not be in competition with blacks. I just don’t think that this is a possibility, because, like the enlightenment thinker Thomas Hobbes suggests, what is natural is that humans are selfish and so it is not realistic to think that people of a higher class are going to give up their status to gain cultural acceptance. The majority of people are too involved in themselves to honestly care. Of course, this does not apply to everyone, but the natural tendencies of human nature make this statement valid.

Although I don’t believe that it is possible for cultural inferiority to be overcome, I do believe there are ways in which it can be reduced. I agree with Stephanie O. and others who believe that “exposing [people] directly to different races and ethnicities” is needed to help conquer prejudice. Educational programs such as having pen pals between schools, with mostly whites, with schools containing mainly African Americas, would be a great place to start helping break the cultural differences. By providing this exposure between races it wil l hopefully make people aware that skin color does not determine who one truly is. It is vital that whatever makes one think that they are superior to another, be understood, so that we can try and create a more accepting society.

Gabe said...

In my opinion, the perception of cultural inferiority can only be overcome if the American population allows it to. Although I am not a racist in any way, I indeed treat Black people differently. I find many others and myself acting over-kind and over-generous towards African-Americans. I am certainly not saying that being kind and gracious towards others is a negative trait, however I feel many people overcompensate. I find people act this way because they feel bad for what has occurred in the past. People are extremely sympathetic towards the bigotry, slavery, and hatred Black people had to experience, and in their way of saying it, they treat African-Americans with unnecessary kindness and consideration. Although people who act this way are not degrading or acting in the normal “racist” mentality, these people are still acting racist towards Black people because they are treating them differently. I believe this occurs because the entire idea of racism and prejudice is not human nature; it is man-made. As stated by Howard Zinn in Chapter 2, “The point is that the elements of this web [referring to reasons for Black racism] are historical, not ‘natural’”. Zinn explains that racism was not caused by human nature, yet it was a man-made creation. Racism was not an inherent inclination but was something that the twisted minds of man established through greed. Zinn argues “there is a possibility for something else, under historical conditions not yet realized. And one of these conditions would be the elimination of that class exploitation…” Zinn displays the notion that only man can change the racism in our society, and we are destined to do so. Although we have certainly changed, there is still racism. I believe cultural inferiority can and will be overcome if man accepts that racism was created by human beings, and can be ended by human beings.

Scott said...

Agreeing with what Nick said about poverty being a main problem of racial inferiority, and also the lack of education that it is associated with,something must be done to correct this. Time itself will not heal the wounds that have accumulated over the course of American history, but the actions we take as a community will be the key.
The poverty that African Americans suffer from is the main problem today, which many people have pointed out. WEB Du Bois stated that, "to be a poor man is hard, but to be a poor race in a land of dollars is the very bottom of hardships" ( The entire African American community is struggling more financially than the white, as shown by examples of lesser pay shown by Stephanie N. Also, a study done by shows African Americans as the race with the highest unemployment between 2001 and 2003. These inequalities are not something that can be fixed with time, but fixed with the help of the government. Zinn even realizes this, and the main thesis of his book is to spark a revolution. His communist ideals, although radical, would inspire equality among jobs and paychecks.
On a cultural level, not much can be done to make blacks equal in the eyes of some whites. No law can change the opinions of a human being, and no war could change the status of African Americans. In this situation, time and education are the main way to eliminate prejudice. The youth must mature without racial tensions, and segregation must end. As Elizabeth pointed out, a school in Georgia just had their first racially unified prom two years ago. Before that, there had been separate parties for blacks and whites. The segregation that occurred before only fueled the discrimination of blacks, creating a continuous cycle of hatred. The children have to be integrated together to create an adult society that is racially unified.

SABRES said...

Nick M. again...

Many people believe that with the election of President Barack Obama, that racism has ended. I believe we have come a tremendous way in eradicating racism, but we still have a very long way to go. Howard Zinn, a social historian, said, “We have no way of testing the behavior of whites and blacks toward one another under favorable conditions” (Zinn 31). Zinn is basically saying that during times of good feeling, such as the current times when with the election of President Obama arguably blacks and whites have come together for the greater common interest, the existence of racism can’t appropriately be measured. Instead it is the actions of the two races towards each other in difficult times, during which the interests of the two races may conflict, that the existence of racism can truly be measured.

Many people may not notice it, but evidence of racism is seen everywhere in our society. For example, I believe it is evidence that racism continues to exist in our society that people continue to identify Barack Obama as our first black president. Just the fact that we identify Obama as black shows that as a nation of diverse individuals, we are not yet colorblind. Another example of this racism is seen in school mastery tests. On the first day of these tests, we are required to fill out personal data including our ethnicity. Among others, Caucasian and African-American are the two that have always stood out to me. While filling out this data, I always wondered why we had to include our ethnicity. I hypothesized that they wanted this information so they could compare how whites did versus blacks. I believe that the fact that we make these comparisons between racial groups in measuring test results is an acknowledgement that the races aren’t equal, and therefore racism exists.

Yes, a black man holds the highest possible office, but it is important to consider society as a whole: whites hold virtually all of the important jobs in our country. For example, of our nine Supreme Court Justices, only one of them is black, Clarence Thomas. Very few Senators, Congressman and heads of large corporations are black. In college football (division 1), there are 119 teams and black men coach only four of them. Recently, Turner Gill, a highly qualified coach of the University of Buffalo, interviewed for the job at Auburn, a university in Alabama. Instead of hiring Gill, the university hired a much less qualified white man. Many people believed that Auburn didn’t hire Gill, who was a better coach then the man they hired because he was black. Personally, I believe that Auburn, which is located in the heart of the South, still has resentment toward blacks, and therefore didn’t hire the better coach. This society has come a long way in eliminating much of the racism that blacks had to endure since they came to the Colonies. However, we as a country will not overcome racism until blacks are not identified as being black people as opposed to just being people.

Jacks Grinning Demise said...
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mr.giggles said...

I agree with scott’s ending point about integration etc. but in order for full success we as human beings need to do away with our very own narcissism. Rousseau, in his Social Contract, says: ‘…once customs are established and prejudices rooted, it is a dangerous and futile undertaking to try and reform them…’

Secondly, I also agree that, sadly, the overall economic position African Americans is terrible, Cornell West in Time magazine amongst other things said ‘ the word finance is an enslaving word’…a play of words off Rousseau. While yes “American slavery was the cruelest form of slavery in history” (Zinn 28) somewhere within the African American community there’s a strain that almost wishes to do nothing, but yet keeps asking for sympathies. (Bill Cosby doesn’t not approve)
So, in overcoming cultural inferiorities what do we do there;…that’s what gets me

Nicole said...

This is Erica G. even though it says Nicole.

I agree with Nicole Seo in that time is the only real way to overcome the perceived cultural inferiority of blacks during Reconstruction. Zinn sated that "it would either take a full scale slave rebellion or a full-scale war to end such a deeply entrenched system" (Slavery without Submission). It was in fact the Civil War that ended the "deeply entrenched system" of slavery. Even though the system of slavery has been overcome the perception of blacks as inferior is still "deeply entrenched" in the minds of many whites. Therefore, time is the only necessary component in overcoming this perception of cultural inferiority. From the end of the Civil War in 1865 through today in 2009 there are still perceptions of inferiority that need to be overcome. Despite the long time it has taken us, I believe that with the election of our first black president the United Sates took a huge step in ending this perception of inferiority. Knowing that racism has mostly been overcome it clearly demonstrates that racism is not natural to man, but it is cultural and can be overcome. (Zinn Drawing the Color Line).

Jenn said...

I agree with the notion that time is a crucial factor. The immense cultural perception regarding “inferior” African-Americans post-Reconstruction - just as many on this blog have agreed with - could only be healed over time. However, blacks must also cease in believing whites are truly superior in order for the healing process of racial equality to commence. In my journalism course, my teacher played an NPR clip for us regarding the “Obama Effect”. An assessment was given to a set of whites and blacks before Obama was a presidential nominee, while he was one, and after he was elected President. Whites were shown to have done well on the knowledge of Obama, for the assessment possessed the word “politic” in it. Pre-election, blacks did significantly poorer than whites, yet with the elimination of the one word, black and whites were equal in knowledge. The same goes for a study on teenage blacks and whites. If the word “intelligence” is placed in the title of a test, black teens did significantly worse than whites. However, if the word “intelligence” was replaced with “puzzle”, the scores were even. Time, yes, is a large factor in the healing of the quote on quote inferiority of African-Americans. However, the fact that blacks consider themselves inferior is barring them from achieving racial equality. They must consider themselves equal to whites. According to Zinn in Chapter 2 of Drawing the Color Line, “…In spite of special subordination of blacks in the Americas in the seventeenth century, there is evidence that where whites and black found themselves with common problems, common work, common enemy in their master, they behaved toward one another as equals” (31). When placed on the same level via similarities, blacks and whites slightly eliminate the cultural inferiority perception – however, not completely. The notion that all whites harbored a deep odium for African-Americans is entirely false. In fact, “Black and white worked together, fraternized together. The very fact that laws had to be passed after a while to forbid such relations indicates the strength of that tendency” Zinn continues to say. With the small step of whites fraternizing with blacks as early as the seventeenth century, time can continue to slowly heal the cultural inferiority. Yet, this cannot happen if blacks continue to view themselves as inferior and unintelligent. Regarding Reconstruction, there was no realistic way any individual anticipated the elimination of racism. Even to this day, albeit efforts to amend the deeply rooted prejudice of African-Americans, whites still harbor slivers of racism. On a daily basis do whites inadvertently extend some form of racism, even if it is as petty as pointing out a commercial with all blacks. However, the fact that whites attempt to mask their prejudice is a small step toward racial and cultural equality. More time is needed – purely for whites to rid themselves of this deeply rooted racism and for blacks to consider themselves just as equal as whites.

margot said...
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margot said...

In response to Kelley and Jeff's statements:
I am in agreement with the idea that time will not heal the sense of cultural inferiority that has been prevalent in our society for so long. As Zinn refers to it, the "color line" is very much a part of our culture, whether racial hatred is outlawed or not. It is impossible to have a society recover to a state of racial equality after a sense of white superiority had been cultivated for such a long period of time in American history.
In Chapter 2, Zinn states, "If racism can't be shown to be natural, then it is the result of certain conditions, and we are impelled to eliminate those conditions"(Zinn). Such "conditions" may be identified as the various forms of discrimination and prejudice that have limited the African American population since the institution of slavery. These "conditions" slowly continued to dissipate at the end of the Civil War, however the racism that resulted from the "conditions, is still present.
Because the U.S. was so overcome by slavery throughout history, the affects of such a cultivated lifestyle are still apparent today.
The U.S. has made great strides in trying to reach racial equality. The recent election of President Barack Obama marks a great milestone in history, especially in regards to the racial injustice that has been polluting our country for so long. I must say that I agree with Jeff's insight in the sense that the celebration of a black man's election does display an acceptance of the presence of inequality. If skin color did not truly matter, than Obama's victory would not have had such an extreme focus.

Jake said...

This is Jake McCambley just so you all know. Sorry this is posted so late, I’ve been doing rain dances all day… hopefully they’ve worked. So in response to the first post by Nicole, and by many others, I agree that cultural inferiority can be overcome by time. But obviously, other factors over the course of time are necessary to the brining the birth of true equality. One factor present throughout time has been the use of racism and the elimination of racism as a tool to achieve a goal. Abraham Lincoln himself used the idea of eliminating racism in attempt to annex the south. The emancipation proclamation itself stated, “That on the 1st day of January, AD 1863, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States shall be then, thenceforward and forever free” (Zinn). His view of emancipation is not so much from a moral standpoint as a political standpoint; he uses the idea of freedom as a tool in attempt to win the war. Black codes were enacted in order to limit the freedom of freed slaves. A Mississippi black code, “provided for [freedmen] to work under labor contracts which they could not break under penalty of prison… with punishment for runaways” (Zinn). They were enforced as a tool to keep blacks under the rule of wealthy white southerners reducing blacks almost to slave conditions. Unfortunately, as seen in these two examples, racism is somehow used to get the upper hand on a group of people, and as long as racism can be used in such a fashion, cultural inferiority will be difficult to overcome.
However, a recent study by Liz Phelps of New York University provides hopeful insight that may in fact lead to the elimination of cultural inferiority. In the study, test subjects were shown general pictures of both white and black faces; the subjects were then told to associate the faces with positive and negative words. The test showed that white subjects’ brains found it easier to associate white faces with positive words and black faces with negative words and vice versa with black test subjects. After MRIs Phelps discovered that the amygdala, a region in the brain that recognizes fear, triggered the response. Phelps concluded, “"You attend to things that are scary because that's essential for survival” (Kluger). Later trials showed that when the subjects had more time to respond with positive or negative words, that the amygdala was overrode by other parts of the brain. Similarly, when subjects were shown faces of familiar people of the opposite race, such as Will Smith or Harrison Ford, that the results leaned more positive rather than negative. Although n the beginning of this study, the brain showed that fear of the opposite race was natural, later the study proved that the brain is capable of overcoming the fear of the opposite race. Jeffery Kluger sums up the study stating, “We're hardwired to react suspiciously to other races. But we also have the tools to overcome it” (Kulger).

Ali said...

Cultural inferiority is a result of different bodies of people failing to understand each other. The people of the world, not just America, are divided by language, religion, color, and social culture. The people in America will never fully understand each other unless al barriers that divide are driven down. The problem is the media that is constantly aiming stereotypes at numerous groups of people, and from these stereotypes we accept who we are in terms of the color of our skin, religion, our customs/practices, and assimilate ourselves to our 'specific group'. These groups of whites, blacks, asians, latin-americans, and more are largely divided by the capitalist structure: economically, socially, and politically.
Howard Zinn writes, "One percent of the nation owns a third of the wealth. The rest of the wealth is distributed in such a way as to turn those in the 99 percent against one another: small property owners against the propertyless, black against white, native-born against foreign-born, intellectuals and professionals against the uneducated and unskilled. These groups have resented one another and warred against one another with such vehemence and violence as to obscure their common position as sharers of leftovers in a very wealthy country" (Zinn 632). Howard Zinn points out that 1/3 of the nation is extremely wealthy and that causes the rest of the nation to compete for a share of the wealth. The fact that 99 percent of a nation competes for 66.7% of wealth is a clear indication of economic inferiority, as some people will make money and some will not got any. The reason blacks are in the economic minority is because they were not native to this nation and its creation, and were instead brought into slavery. When coming out of slavery, they were hated against once more by angry southerners who established black codes. Since then, their level of education has been limited, and job opportunity was weak during the time after Reconstruction. Because they were never given the same quality opportunity as whites for education and jobs, a big portion of the black population has found themselves in a rough economic situation that is unequal to a lot of the white population. I would call this cultural inferiority because there is a large economic gap between the two bodies of people.

I feel very comfortable saying that there is a lack of african americans, Asians, Latin Americans, and other groups of people in Westport, CT. This small New England town is predominantly white and I assume that is the way it has always been. Because of this lack of people, some of us assume and make stereotypes about the minority group around us. I will admit that I enjoy watching BET (black entertainment television) after school because I enjoy some of their programs, but the channel is full of what i think are stereotypes, specifically in its commercials. I could swear that I saw the same iHop commercial on a different channel with a different voice over. The BET one was a man with a deep voice and on the other channel it was a woman. It was silly to think that the company actually made two different commercials to advertise toward two different bodies of people, but it was true. The channel also mainly features blacks in its commercials, which makes sense because it is a black entertainment channel, but it imposes the idea that that is what blacks should be doing, buying, or going. its just the small things you do not really recognize that set us apart; the way people dress, their hair, their background, anything that can be judged upon, and the media really points it all out. Its influence over the people is quite appalling and it is what makes cultural differences happen. people magazine and Entertainment tonight make celebrities not human, as they are worshipped as gods and saviors, when very little of them have done anything to help other people. With todays technology, advertising, and difficulty in education, I would say we are far from healing cultural differences, so far that its not even possible for America.

The biggest issue is that destroying cultural difference is impossible in America, as it would require the dissolving of the capitalist system, the best and worst part of this nation. With freedom of speech and media comes a creation of racial differences. With differences in education just because of where you live comes an inferior, less educated people on one side. Without economic equality comes people separated by their jobs and incomes. America is a land of separation; its everywhere. In economics, in education, in cultures, in our own government, across state borders. This nation is divided in almost every way, and dissolving a free capitalist system would mean the end of the United States of America. If you recall back to the Cold War, Gorbachev attempted to save the Soviet union, a very influential nation, by switching his country's economic system to capitalism. What happened? The union was destroyed and dissolved. A change so quick does not work, and thats why it will not work for America, because with this kind of change includes taking away what America is glorified and hated for; capitalism.
Many people will tell you that a cat and a dog do not get along, which is mostly true, but if they are raised together, they get along, and this is because when they are young they learn and understand each other. People of all colors need to be raised like so with one another to fully reach equality. Cultural inferiority can only be eradicated by the creation of a universal language, universal religion, and universal nation. People of all colors need to be raised with one another to fully reach equality. Nothing can stand between people in order to have true cultural indifference. I'm not saying its impossible, I'm saying that it can be done with hard work and the nation to do it is not going to be America. Its just not natural to do such a thing here, but we can try our best.

As for the election of Obama I believe Suzanne made a wonderful point that Obama's victory is not a total victory. If some people worry that "Obama is not black enough" then I think or social barriers are still very strict and tight. Just because he won this time does not mean a black man is going to win again in four years or eight years. Who knows? Maybe we'll get back to another two hundred years without a black president. I will only be convinced of a breakthrough in political inferiority if there were more black presidents elected in the future, and hopefully an asian, latin american, and of course a woman president.

Oh and to Rosie- T.J. Holmes is an African American news anchor on CNN and Dr.Sanjay Gupta is an Indian who was born in Detroit, and he is well known for being CNN's chief medical correspondent, but I get your point.

Assuming that I am the last person to post,I would like to close by saying I have been reading a lot of other students' work in this blog and it is extremely impressing. The amount of research some people did, the arguments, and questions posed were fantastic. I think we should all be congratulated! (US party).

Farrel said...

Most human beings don’t want to think that cultural inferiority cannot be overcome. Most human beings don’t want to think they discriminate against others. Nevertheless, all humans want to be wealthy, and will do whatever it takes to acquire wealth. That quest may lead them to be prejudiced against others, and treat them as inferiors, whether they are aware of this treatment, or not.
Before I discuss slavery, I’d like to note that I strongly agreed with Ali’s point, but would like to take it a bit further. To do so, I can contrast a commercial I saw with one Ali described, which had African Americans starring on the commercials of the Black Entertainment channel. I forget what channel I was viewing, but a commercial was on for AT&T, advertising its “rollover minutes” policy. The commercial featured a black-haired teenage boy, blonde-haired mother, a red-haired older woman, and an African American young boy. If that isn’t AT&T attempting to be the epitome of diversity and appeal to all it’s viewers- then I don’t know what is. But why does AT&T feel obligated to include the African-American boy? Will it be accused of discrimination without it? And why is the African-American the only actor without white skin? And where’s the Latinos, the Koreans, or the Japanese?
AT&T is attempting to relate to viewers of all different cultural backgrounds, but manages to cause the opposite effect. Putting three white actors to one African-American actor is a clear sign of cultural inferiority in the year 2009, disregarding the fact that many other backgrounds were excluded from the commercial.
A question posed in this blog asks for the justification of racist attitudes and behavior. My guess would be that AT&T would point fingers at the 2007 population estimate by the Census Bureau, which states 66% of the United States population is “White, not Hispanic” (80% is white, with no further specifications). Therefore, the company may state that it is acceptable to focus its advertisements on white people, as they are America’s largest consumer group. However, what about the 38,607,508 African Americans in America? Or the 13,271,330 Asian Americans, (even if that statistic wasn’t further broken down into different ethnic groups like it should)? I am shamed to realize cultural inferiority is still present today, 232 years after “the birth” of our country. However, as shown by the Black Entertainment channel and it’s predominately audience and African-American commercials, and AT&T’s Caucasian-targeted commercial, companies want the largest possible profit. Those companies evince that in society, it is acceptable to racially discriminate, all for pecuniary gain.
Along with cultural injustice, money is a key factor in both racial injustice, and slavery. As preeminent multiculturalism scholar Ronald Takaki noted in his book A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America, Civil Rights Movement leader Martin Luther King called economic injustice and racial injustice “‘inseparable twins’” (Takaki 410). That statement could not ring more true, as slavery displayed that trend precisely.
Slavery led to the treatment of African-Americans as if they were subhuman, or below, as stated by Benjamin Franklin, “the lovely White,” (Takaki 79). They were shunned from society, especially the upper class, and manipulated so they always stayed poor, and the plantation owners always stayed rich. The slaves faced economic injustice, being unable to scrap out a decent living, and as King stated, faced racial injustice as well.
Although the slaves’ lives were horrible, slave owners weren’t concerned with the conditions of slavery, or treatment of slaves. It was the mere existence of slavery that mattered. For instance, as described in esteemed historian Howard Zinn’s book A People’s History of the United States, the trade of cotton, which was picked by slaves, was “the most successful system of capitalist enrichment in the world,” (Zinn 171). The white Americans were concerned with their capital, not their consciences, and didn’t care about imposing economic or racial inequality onto fellow human beings as long as they retained their wealth.
The slave owners of the nineteenth century, and the electronic companies of today, both manage to treat others as inferiors, due to the desire for money. As displayed by Zinn, Takaki, and history itself, the yearning for wealth results in cultural inferiority. Humanity will never halt its quest for money, and therefore, cultural inferiority will continue to be accepted in society, and never be overcome.

Charlotte Corbo said...

I am sorry Ali, but since I keep losing integrity to post on time, it looks like you will not be the last person to post.
It was not only the slaves during the early eras of America that were suffering from the anglo-saxons, please keep that in mind. In the colonial areas, there were also indentured servants and Indians that were opposed to the full privileged life of an American. And 350 years will give ample proof to any scholar that our racist attitudes may never be just.
As colonials from England, we wiped out the very natives of this country, the Indians. And as patriotic Americans in 1978, we would not shelter the exiled Iranian Shah into our country because we feared that we would not receive the oil that we needed to strive off modernization. But as Zinn states, [...] They were viewed as being different from the white servants, were treated differently, and in fact were slaves. In any case, slavery developed quickly into a regular institution, into the normal labor relation of the blacks to whites in the New World. With it developed that special racial feeling-whether hatred, or contempt, or pity, or patronization-that accompanied the inferior status in America for the next 350 years-that inferior status and derogatory thought we call racism."
Can attitudes be just. In this country, no. We are a united group of individuals, and as long as we have the First Amendment, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." All minds will have the right to think of what they wish to think of, regardless if it is just or not.
Nevertheless, David Levering Lewis wrote in his preface to his book, "When Harlem was in Vogue", "From its authentic beginnings in 1919, with soldiers returning from the Great War, to its sputtering end in 1934, with the Great Depression death of two principles, the racial goals of the renaissance remained constant. Notwithstanding Langston Hughe's famous manifesto on artistic independence or the strenuously outrageous literary behavior of Wallace Thurman and his friends, there always, between seniors and Young Turks, the ultimate solidarity conviction that a critical mass of exemplary talent could make things better. If "When Harlem was in Vogue" were to be given a belated subtitle, it might be, "Civil Rights by Copyright." The Harlem Renaissance era is a perfect example of a culture overcoming it's prejudice judgements and inferiority. Here you have what people believed to be inferior and unsophisticated blacks becoming some of the most influential and empowering literary icons in the world. The reality of slavery is just as significant as the existence of slavery for without African American Idols of today would not be empowered to rise above the suffering of their ancestors. Without the suffering we would not have the ideals of Langston Hughes and other icons. Take his poem, "As I Grew Older" for example. He has this image of a wall, a wall that could represent suffering or oppression or even inferiority and he says "Break through the wall! Find my dream!" Essentially without unity we will not overcome cultural inferiority, for as long as we have the first amendment, all minds are free to believe what they wish to believe.

Charlie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Charlie said...

Just adding on to those who pointed out that time could only mend the cultural inferiority of blacks during reconstruction. In my opinion, i believe this to be true simply because how demeaning the whites had been towards the slaves for over a hundred year span. To reverse this inferiority that had been accepted and preached to society for so long would take at least a century as we have witnessed. Zinn points out the conditions the slaves were bound by. "Slaves we taught discipline, were impressed again and again with the idea of their own inferiority to "know their place", to see blackness as a sign of subordination, to be awed by the power of the master, to merge their interest with the master's destroying their own individual needs." (34) This quote from Zinn just attests to the fact that african american slaves were under high influence from masters and society that for them to become accepted into the community with cultural equality is not even debatably feasible. Time is the only solution for this lack of cultural equality.

charlotte said...

I haven't had internet access the past few 2 days..

I recently spent part of February break in Austria. While I was there, I noticed that everyone was White and Christian. Even though the Nazis lost WWII, in a sense they got what they wanted because they wiped out the large majority of the Jewish population. One night, my parents and I started talking about the Holocaust and my parents started a bit of a debate. My father said that what the Nazis did to the Jews was really the same thing as what English settlers did to the Indians, but my mother disagreed. She said that it was a different situation because the Jews lived among them; they were their neighbors, friends, doctors, etc. When she said this, she was implying that what the Nazis did was worse, but when I started to think about it, in away what the settlers did was worse. The Jews lived amongst the Christians, but the Indians lived in America before the settlers; it was their land. In many ways however, what the settlers did to both Indians and African slaves, is very similar to what the Nazis did to the Jews. We used Indians to get what we wanted and then we killed them, the same way Nazis used the Jews for labor and when they became too weak to work, they were killed. The similarities between the way Nazis treated the Jews with the concentration camps also pares a striking resemblance to what Americans did to African slaves. Howard Zinn acknowledges the amount of slave deaths form 1850 to 1855, but then describes the emptiness slaves must have felt, being separated from their loved ones; something much harder to document. “But can statistics record what it meant for families to be torn apart, when a master, for profit, sold a husband or wife, a son or daughter” (Zinn 172)? This reminds me of books such as Night that address the separation of family members during the Holocaust.
Over February break I also visited Prague, which during the 1930’s had one of the largest Jewish populations in Europe. During the Holocaust, however, two-thirds of Prague’s Jewish population perished. We visited a Jewish ghetto of Prague and it was very different then the central part of the city. It was a much poorer area and many of the buildings were disheveled. This was also the only time during our trip to both Prague and Vienna, that a saw a single synagogue. The differences between areas in Prague reminded me much of differences in America, such as Westport and Bridgeport. It seems that America looks at itself with a higher standard, but really the main difference to me, is that Nazi Germany lost and therefore got caught.
I feel this is very relevant to the Thomas L. Friedman article, because America is still a very segregated Country. Blacks and Whites, on paper are considered equals, but do not often live in the same neighborhoods or attend the same schools, etc. Obama becoming president of the United States was a huge stride for America. He represents that no matter what your race, you can finally achieve great success in America. “Let every child and every citizen and every new immigrant know that this day forward everything really is possible in America” (Friedman 4)

charlotte said...

I want to point out that I in no way wanted to offend anyone. I know many Jewish people would say there is really nothing that compares to the holocaust. I am just trying to show the severity of both slavery in America and the American Indian genocide/displacement.