I chose this image this week because I was surprised at how so much anger is built up into some people when discussing illegal immigration. In this image the lady is an anti-immigrant protester who is yelling and eventually spit in the face of the Mexican singer Lupio Rivera. The reason that they were at the protest was because a bus full of undocumented women and children were being sent to a federal facility where they were going to be given food and shelter until the government decided whether to take then back to Mexico (which some of the people in there were not even from Mexico) or keep them in the U.S. When some Americans heard that they were not being directly deported they decided to take matters into their own hands and block the bus’s entrance to the facility. Eventually there were two groups of protesters, the ones who were against the children staying at the facility, and the ones who were for it. Lupio Rivera was one of the people who was for the children getting shelter and food and he let everyone know that at the rally. Things became so heated at some point that a woman yelled nasty slurs at him and he was spit on in his face. I feel that this is an important image because how is it morally correct to disrespect someone in that matter? Despite being treated that way he stayed and kept protesting peacefully. This topic brings many things in mind; for one how can people who were once immigrants to this country tell small children to get out?
I choose to share this article with the rest of the class because Billy Ray Wheelock, unlike many other cases, was freed from his unjustified time in jail. Like many others, Billy Ray Wheelock was a poor, black man that was targeted at the height of the War On Drugs.
After Obama was elected, Wheelock wrote a letter about the injustice he faced. Wheelock was given a life sentence for a non-violent act of carrying cocaine. Interestingly, Wheelock agrees that he deserved to serve time because he was arrested on three different times for the same crime, however the extent of his sentencing was more than which a violent criminal often faces.
Surprisingly President Obama responded to the letter by announcing that eight nonviolent drug offenders would be granted early prison release. To further make his story unlike most Wheelock found love while serving time on an Islamic dating site. Also, he is making public appearances to share his story with the rest of the unknowing public. He has made it his passion to help others who were unjustifiably sent to jail get out.
This story relates directly to our class because this is an example the effects of the War on Drugs which are still present today. Since we are discussing the many people affected by this ‘war’ and the unjustified system, which prevails over our culture, I thought this was a nice case. Unlike what was discussed in The New Jim Crow, Wheelock was able to break free from the permanent label of being a criminal in order to become a better person in both his own eyes and in the eyes of the law. Admittedly he is angry at how he was treated, but the fact he was able to find love and a job, which could benefit many others. I choose this article specifically in order to shed light on the possibility that our judicial system could evolve and become justified by actually protecting its people. It is also an example of how even though a fate may be given to somebody, it is still possible to rise above it and to become the person that they have been without the criminal charge.
I chose this article because of the stark comparisons it makes to President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder, which shows how fighting for racial equality manifests itself in politics. While Eric Holder, who resigned from his position, placed racial issues at the forefront, the writer of the article critiques Obama for taking too loose and passive of a position on racial issues. In class, we’ve discussed the severe injustices of the prison system and the War on Drugs; particularly how both target young African-American men unfairly. Eric Holder’s work during office, such as speaking out against long prison sentences for non-violent drug offenders, has been exactly what Michelle Alexander has mentioned in her book The New Jim Crow as the necessary steps to break down the system of mass incarceration. However, the article critiques President Obama for not taking a strong standpoint regarding these issues. I think this is significant because it proves that politics and popularity are huge obstacles that must be overcome to fight racism. The article presents Obama as not having a strong view on racial issues; however, I believe that it is possible that President Obama is choosing not to share his views in fear of alienating his supporters. As the president, in order to have good ratings, Obama must cater to all of America, including those who do not believe that racial issues are important at all. Therefore, some of his “views” might not truly be his views; for instance, I don’t know if I believe that Obama truly thinks that talking about race will not solve racial tensions. Until politics can be taken out of the equation when it comes to solving racial issues, or any issue in America, change cannot fully occur.
This week I’ve chosen to share not just an image, but rather a collection of images that I feel take a unique and powerful approach to the issue of racism that we have been discussing in class. I decided to use this example because I think it shows that racism does not only affect African Americans that are presumed to be of low socioeconomic status and living in the ghetto. In class we have directed most of our the magnitude of the corruption in the United State’s criminal justice system and they way in which it is systematically designed to ensure the mass incarceration of black people that are presumed to be poor, lacking in education, and supposedly prone to criminal activity. I wanted to highlight, however, that while there are also many African Americans living outside of poverty, they have yet to escape the racism. In The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander points out that there are individuals “…like Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey, who have defied the odds and risen to power, fame, and fortune” (Alexander 180). I think the Tumblr campaign “I, Too, Am Harvard” is a prime example of those who have “defied the odds” that are still victims of the racial prejudice and stereotypes that plague society. In each photo a black Harvard student poses with a chalkboard displaying a statement that provides just a small insight into their personal experience with racism. The stories shared by the Harvard students are extremely powerful because they show that, though they may not necessarily be confined by the bars of a prison cell, because of their race they are confined to a certain image of what it means to be black and are subject to stereotypes, discrimination, and speculation that their admission to Harvard is solely a result of affirmative action. In order to effectively combat racism and make gains towards social change, it is imperative to address the fact that racism affects members of minorities from a variety of social backgrounds.
This is a wonderful TED talk that poses the question: Can you be color brave instead of color blind? Mellody Hobson asks all of us as citizens to be observant in our day to day lives and surround ourselves with diversity. She talks about diversity not just in race but also in thought, background, interest, ect. She points to numbers (much like Michelle Alexander) to prove the fact that race is still something that we need to talk about. We, as a society, need to be comfortable with having difficult conversations. In order to improve society we must not pretend that racism is no longer an issue, instead we must face it head on.
She talks about the fact that there is a HUGE disparity in the number of white vs. African American CEO’s. She also mentions racial profiling, yet she does not bring up the reasons behind these disparities. We see again either an ignorance of the criminal justice system (and how it operates as a caste system) or ignoring the criminal justice system because it is easier to ask people to embrace diversity than it is to ask people to embrace felons.
While Ms. Hobson’s challenge to society (embracing diversity) is a great start, it doesn’t directly attack the issue within the criminal justice system. Which begs the question, how can society create more equality and job opportunities for people with felonies?
Lastly, she does make a goodColor Blind or Color Brave? reach for more than they thought possible. Imagine if each child were told they could be anything… What type of world would we live in?
I decided to post something slightly different from the usual articles commenting on race inequality in an effort to focus on the issue of gender equality. Much like race inequality in the US, gender inequality still exists. This post contains two articles and one video, all about the speech actress and UN Goodwill Representative Emma Watson gave on September 20th. They should be looked at in the following order: first watch Watson’s speech, which is only 12 minutes long, addressing her new initiative called HeforShe and commenting on feminism today. The next one is an article discussing the reactions to Watson’s speech and providing criticism on some areas while defending her in others. Lastly, the third article goes even further and addresses the extreme criticism and backlash in response to Watson’s speech as she was threatened with the release of nude pictures of herself as well as death threats.
I feel that Watson’s speech is not only significant in that a celebrity is getting officially involved by transitioning from an actress to a country representative, but that she raises some key points on feminism in today’s world. Watson, who was appointed as Goodwill ambassador for UN women six months ago, has already spearheaded the program and initiative HeforShe, which focuses on the inclusion of both sexes to fight gender inequality. Watson states “ I feel the more I’ve spoken about feminism, the more I have realized that fighting for women’s wrights has too often become synonymous with man hating” which is why she is urging men and boys to join the fight. Despite Watson’s impressive speech, the point she made about gender inequality was sadly proven correct through the response to her claims. Shortly after her speech was given, Watson received not only death threats, but threats by a marketing firm of releasing nude pictures of her. This tactic is quite saddening to me. Regardless of how ‘good’ Watson’s speech was, the fact that some responded with the intention of trying to silence her and intimidate her through exploiting her body is all the evidence we need to understand and acknowledge that gender inequality remains a huge issue, in the US and worldwide.
Lastly, I feel later on in the semester we can look at and analyze the presence of gender inequality within larger concepts of race inequality or immigrant status and can look at how gender inequality affects what we define as ethical.
Recently in class, we have begun to to discuss how the prison system in America, in addition to policies regarding former prisoners, creates a very circular criminal person. Once a person leaves the prison, they are forced to try to make a living in an system that does not support people of their kind. Eventually the individual finds themselves in a position that compromises their new life and must go back to prison. The first image acknowledges this cycle, people in the system usually have a hard time of getting themselves out.
The second image, is more controversial. The image depicts a young typical young black male trying to get in line to figure out his future. The one for Affirmative Action is closed, so he is destined for jail in the future. Affirmative Action was proposed and signed into action 1965 by President Lyndon B. Johnson. The purpose of the law was to give minorities equal access and end discrimination in work, education, and other important avenues of success. As we have discussed in class recently, there may be ways in which people of color have ways to improve themselves, but there are also may obstacles, such as police networks and the stereotypes that run rampant in today’s society. Especially in areas where there is lack of access to many things, such as healthy foods, how can one even attempt to look for opportunities where affirmative action is working properly?
These images present an interesting theory that we should bring up in class. Is the structure of affirmative action helping the criminal justice system lure black men into prisons or helping?
For this week’s submission, I chose an article about the controversial issues of incarceration in California. Presently, California is having a tough time deciding whether or not Proposition 47 should be passed in the next November ballot. Proposition 47 would reduce the classification of most “nonserious and nonviolent property and drug crimes” from a felony to a misdemeanor. So, for example, if a burglar who stole small amounts of cash was sentenced to prison, he or she would have a lesser sentence or be simply let go as a result. This proposition also stresses the point that the government will redistribute its money towards education as there have been more prisons than schools opened in the last twenty years and the money spent on each prisoner is almost seven times as much spent on each K-12 student. If the voters support Proposition 47 this November, California will lead the way for other states to make similar moves from incarceration to restoration.
While this sounds like good news for California, there are issues with this proposition. While at one hand, the government will have more flexibility with their money to reallocate, on the other hand, the prisoners will be let go into the streets and have no place to go. As revealed in chapter four in Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow, ex-convicts face post-prison hardships as they don’t know how to adapt back into society again. There is a racial caste that operates after offenders are released to prevent them from finding work or housing and from paying “hidden” fees associated with their situations. California will have to think two steps ahead in order to resolve this problem. Otherwise, the Black community will be torn apart and be turned against itself because of intensified shame and self-hate.
If students are interested, I’m willing to do a screening of the Kids for Cash film for the class. This is a documentary about two judges who accepted over a million dollars in kickbacks from those who built/managed juvenile detention centers in PA for sending kids there during the 2000’s. Remarkably, even when this story became news in ’08 and ’09 it was given little media coverage.