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Month: October 2019

Madeline Welch Blog 8

Regarding my topic, I would like to avoid repetition if possible, so things that we have focused on heavily already (masterplots, rags to riches, immigration and the American dream) are not as appealing to me. However, I like the idea of combining some of those elements into other topics, such as voices of color and the empathic fallacy, “front burner issues” from Critical Race Theory, The Innocence Project, and Black Lives Matter. We haven’t talked about the last one, “Leaning in”, but issues of feminism are also interesting and important to me. I think I could talk more about that once I have more context. 

I’m leaning towards focusing on the Innocence Project, which I know a bit about but would be interested to learn more. I think it especially can be relevant if, say, a “type” ascribed to a certain individual influenced their arrest despite lack of evidence. Or, once a type was ascribed, their “character” was in a sense flattened and allowed no further depth. I could also look at the other side, speak about the dangers of empathy and connect that to cases like Steven Avery who may not have been entirely innocent. I also have a friend at Sarah Lawrence College studying forensic science, and I’m sure I could speak to her about the more fact-based side of things. I’m also willing to look at Drown and The Hate U Give in terms of voices of color,  front burner issues and the Black Lives Matter movement. The only thing I worry about with these topics is, once again, repetition, because I am working on an assignment in another class connecting restrictions to abortion and the oppression of black women. Still, I am open to exploring other aspects of the topics and put a more literary lens to them. 

Whatever I choose I’m sure I could connect it with a current case or story, as well as the theories we’ve discussed in class. The only thing I worry about is this idea of a multi-modal project. I would like more clear descriptions of what that might mean. I can pull together a powerpoint fairly easily, and speak in front of the class. But should I be thinking beyond that? I don’t know if I enjoy my voice enough to record it in a podcast and listen to it with the class, but if I was interviewing someone who had knowledge in my topic that might be more tolerable. But with the podcast example I just don’t know if I’d be able to pull that together in time, as I have at least two other projects due around the time of this one and have to give equal focus to them. This idea of an open topic is interesting but I would like to narrow in sooner rather than later for this reason. 

Madeline Welch Reading Blog 7

There is a lot that can be said about The Hate U Give, most of which cannot fit into a single blog post. Besides being an extremely well-written and heartbreaking novel, it prompts a great deal of discussion in several areas. Critical race theorists would likely focus on the ideas of racism, assimilation, and intersectionality. In order to avoid going on forever, I’ll just be focusing on racism in this post, as it pops up in many areas. 

I think something that stood out to me the most in the novel was the idea that “racism is difficult to address or cure because it’s not acknowledged” (Delgado & Stefancic 8). There’s the obvious example of the shooting and subsequent murder of Khalil; police brutality is one of the more extreme results of racism. But it exists in other areas too. I think of the conversation between Uncle Carlos and Maverick. In reference to the murder, Carlos insisted, “‘this isn’t about black or white’” (Thomas 51). Yet we saw through the eyes of our protagonist, Starr, that Khalil “was unarmed” (104) and that the cop “turn[ed] up empty” when searching for drugs (23). Other than moving when he wasn’t supposed to, why would the officer have been so ready to shoot? All signs point to the young man’s race. As Maverick points out, “‘you said it yourself, [Brian] thought Khalil was a drug dealer…why would he have assumed that though? What? By looking at Khalil?’” (52). And yet, because of the refusal to acknowledge this form of racism, it continues. Because “despite a credible eyewitness account, the police department [had] no intentions of arresting the officer who murdered [Khalil]” (128). More officers are likely to receive a similar ‘sentence,’ both in the novel and in real life. 

Another place racism turns up is in Starr’s friend Hailey. Aside from urging Starr during a basketball game to “‘pretend the ball is some fried chicken’” (111), she shows outright denial that people of color have been-and continue to be-treated horribly in this country. Starr had posted a picture on Tumblr of Emmett Till, a man who “was murdered for whistling at a white woman in 1955” (77). It was a horrific event that spurred the civil rights movement to go national (Jansson 266). Hailey didn’t seem to care about any of that, though, as she “couldn’t believe [Starr] would reblog such an awful picture” and unfollowed her shortly afterwards (Thomas 77). When Starr was upset at the basketball game, she was furious to have been called out for her words. She asks, “‘after everything we’ve been through, you think I’m a racist?’” (112). Searching for some possible reason her friend would have been acting strangely, Hailey continues: “‘does this have something to do with that drug dealer in your neighborhood?…I know you’re into that sort of thing now’” (113). Implying that fighting for civil rights is a ‘thing,’ a hobby that any reasonable (white) person would scoff at, shows that she will not acknowledge racism, nor her potential status as a racist. But this should come as no surprise, as “racism is ordinary, not aberrational” (Delgado & Stefancic 8). 

One last place I’d like to look is stereotypes, which the novel addresses in various areas. Delgado and Stefancic explain that “race and races are products of social thought and relations…categories that society invents, manipulates, or retires when convenient” (9). We see this in the form of racial stereotypes, many of which we could identify when shown a picture; exaggerated features and personality traits. But although we see those as wrong, we have a collection of new stereotypes for black people: the drug dealer, the thug, the criminal, all of which the officer applied to Khalil. But those are just the male coded ones. There’s also “thug ghetto girl” (Thomas 113) or “the angry black girl” (115). These labels aren’t just labels, though. There are higher stakes than how one might be treated at school. They almost seem to justify violent actions taken against black people. According to Carlos, because Khalil was a suspected drug dealer, “‘that makes it okay’” for him to have been shot and killed (52).

I do want to point out that this whole post, along with the novel, plays into the black-white dichotomy. There are other races in the U.S. who face troubles and dangers, who have racism and stereotypes controlling their lives. However, just because The Hate U Give focuses on this one group, that doesn’t change any of the issues discussed. It provides a unique perspective; an acknowledgement of how black people in particular are treated by white Americans. It may not be as inclusive as certain theorists might like, but that shouldn’t mean it’s any less important. 

I’ve really enjoyed this novel so far…even though I’ve come close to crying several times. And we’re only at chapter eight! Regardless, it’s made me think quite a bit, as well as reexamine my position and status as a white woman. I look forward to reading more and discovering where Starr’s story takes her.

Additional source: Jansson, Bruce S. The Reluctant Welfare State: Engaging History to Advance Social Work Practice in Contemporary Society. Boston, MA, Cengage Learning, 2019.

Madeline Welch Reading Blog 6


4. Browning inserts the love story to show what barriers exist for slaves. At first, the speaker thinks she may have found a way to be happy, receiving and “tender and full” gaze from another slave (Browning, line 61) and later a confession of “‘I love you’” (line 72). However, her speaking in the past tense and the man being dragged away hints that he has been killed. Her love was stolen from her because, being black, they “had no claim to love and bliss” (line 93). It relates back to the critique of God in those earlier stanzas; He creates black people only to “cast His work away” later (line 25).

5. It recalls the first stanza because the speaker looks upon “his blood’s mark in the dust” (line 97) just as she will later look upon “the mark beside the shore/of the first white pilgrim’s bended knee” (lines 1-2). But while those pilgrims had done that as a representation of freedom, this was a further showing of captivity. I think that line means that the masters would not let her cry for her love’s death because she needed to get back to work, that perhaps they hurt her when she tried crying. That’s one more thing that was taken from her, something merciful that she was not allowed due to her blackness. 

6. I think she literally thinks it for the best that the child die. Not to save it per say but to keep violence from continuing. They both “went moaning, child and mother” (line 110), but she saw this crying from the child as him “want[ing] his liberty/…want[ing] his master’s right” (lines 125-26). 

7. She admits to her hatred for the baby, because he “was far too white…too white for me” (line 116). She “could not bare/to look at his face, it was so white” (lines 120-21). But she also admits that his struggle did cause her pain, as he beat “against my heart to break it though,” (line130) and she nearly sang to him to calm him. 

8. All of those stanzas have some form of defiance, perhaps because the speaker is done accepting her forced position. We have more obvious forms, like her saying to the men, “Keep off! I brave you all at once” (line 207) and “Man, drop that stone you dared to lift” (line 212). She also defies them in her mind, declaring, “I am not mad: I am black” (line 219), and uses her willpower to keep silent; “You think I shrieked then? Not a sound” (line 226).

9. The speaker makes an interesting statement that this free land is sustained by oppression and abuse; “For in the UNION, you have set/two kinds of men in adverse rows,/Each loathing each” (lines 234-36). However, they “forget/the seven wounds in Christ’s body fair” meaning they ignore the man they worship who died wishing for kindness and acceptance (lines 236-37). I think it’s quite depressing that these people only took from religion what suited them best. 

10. It has to do with her son. She says, “In the name of the white child, waiting for me/In the death-dark where we may kiss and agree” (lines 251-52). If there’s this chance she and the baby she loathed could have a chance to reconcile in death, there’s a chance something similar could happen between black and white people. 

I do believe this poem could have been effective. I think it forces white people to look at the origins of the nation, and highlights the contradictions of liberty and slavery. It calls to question why God would have “made dark things/To be glad and merry as white” if all dark creations are meant to be inferior (lines 29-30). I also believe this poem definitely rounds out similar characters to the speaker. If this story had been told from the perspective of a slave owner, he might have portrayed her as the stereotype/flat character of the ‘Jezebel’. Because she had an (arguably) sexual relationship with another one of the slaves, she might be seen as immoral and promiscuous (st. XII). Certainly, this was a type that was used to label black women in other works. Of course, people are much more than types. We see in this story that it was love that bound these two, not just sexual desire (st. IX-X). She wasn’t just a female slave, she was also a mother. But not by choice. She had a white child, which means she was taken advantage of by a white man on the plantation. Perhaps one who only saw her as that Jezebel. Her reaction to it makes more sense in that context. She was made into an object, her freedom stolen even further. This poem shows her struggle, and shows her as a person, which definitely gives credence to the abolitionists’ mindset. 

B. Despite the argument that I made, I do think it is relatively easy to read this poem in the opposite direction. Justice Taney speaks at length about “the interests and safety of society,” which one might say refers to white society only, and therefore the threat the black people pose to that society (Dred Scott v. Sanford, 1856). If he were to read this poem it might prove his point. A black woman killing her son for being “far too white” is certainly a threat, as it implies that most black people hold this innate desire to harm whites (Browning, line 116). Of course, then, the framers would not have wanted them to be on equal footing. Furthermore, if maliciousness and immorality is what black people always have within them, then it would make sense that God would create them to be below white people and to serve them (st. IV). They don’t deserve to “bend [their] knee upon this mark” that was left by the pilgrims, as they seek to kill the descendents of these pilgrims (line 6). To clarify, I do not agree with this standpoint! But if the goal of people like Taney to create villains, to find faults, to justify an institution that will always benefit them, they will always be able to find what they are looking for. A violent and crazy slave instead of a heartbroken yet strong woman gives them everything they need. 

Madeline Welch Reading Blog 5

The two stories I have chosen are Aguantando and Edison, New Jersey. The first is about a poor family in Puerto Rico. The protagonist, the youngest son referred to as ‘Yunior,’  recounts the stories of his childhood and his absentee father (Diaz 69-88). The second is about a retail worker in New Jersey, who is unnamed. He tells us about some of his history and his attitude towards life while trying to get a man named Pruitt his pool table (Diaz 121-140). 

There’s a lot to unpack in these stories, which I found to be interesting but slow-paced at times. I think in and of themselves they reject the “black-white binary” that often overshadows our country (Delgado & Stefanic 92). While discussions of discrimination or poverty often focus in on black Americans, Diaz showcases Latino protagonists and families facing these troubles. I think the fact that I had to keep google translate open in front of me as I read also shows our country’s preference for the English language, another issue that LatCrit scholars focus on (93). 

Intersectionality is found all over in Diaz’s work. Looking at Aguantando, we see a single Latino mother, struggling to get by and support her children. Yunior tells us that when his brother Rafa caught worms, “it was only be skimping on our dinners that Mami could afford to purchase Verminox” (Diaz 71). I feel like her husband took advantage of her, leaving her to take care of their sons while he went to work in the U.S. This could be because she’s a woman, assumed to be destined for a domestic role. Along with that, he could have just been a bad person. Miranda mentions ominously that Yunior’s father “took too much”, wishing, “if only your mother could have noticed his true nature earlier” (76). In Edison, New Jersey, the protagonist faces clear discrimination as a Latino man, however in terms of intersectionality I would focus on Pruitt’s maid. She’s black, with Spanish being her native language. Since she “stared…blankly” when the protagonist tried to converse in English, I believe she might have faced difficulties in this country due to her language barrier (133). She’s also young, as the protagonist estimates that she “couldn’t have been older than twenty”, and often younger people are not taken as seriously in our country (126). She’s unhappy in her position as a housekeeper; she didn’t answer the door the first couple of times the protagonist and Wayne came by because she “wanted to piss him [Pruitt] off” (133). Though she lives in the house and doesn’t have means to leave. If you want to talk about a person presumed to be destined for domestic work, I would look no further than our country’s history with white people hiring people of color to clean their houses. Something that is still quite active today. With her being a woman, I think we clearly see a combination of gender-based discrimination and race/ethnicity-based discrimination. 

I don’t believe either of our protagonists are attempting assimilation. Yunior’s family doesn’t live in America, and so they have no reason to. We can guess about their father, how he’s getting by in a different country, but it’s not something that touches the rest of his family. Meanwhile, in New Jersey, the protagonist is definitely making an effort to stay true to himself. While he works for (often white) “doctors, diplomats, surgeons, presidents of universities, ladies in slacks,” he doesn’t put their needs before his own (Diaz 122). If he has been mistreated by his client, he will “cram bubble bath drops into [his] pockets and throw fist-sized wads of toilet paper into the toilet. [He’ll] take a dump if [he] can and leave that for them” (123).

If a critical race theorist were too look at these two stories, they might notice the disparities between the Latino characters and everyone else. In Aguantando, they might point to the lack of a father figure and the struggle in a single-income home, as well as Yunior at nine not being able to read or “write [his] own name” (Diaz 82). In Edison, New Jersey, one might look at how easy it would have been for the protagonist and Wayne to lose their jobs because some white man got upset. They might see the discrimination, for example the boss calling him to help on a sale “only when he needs [his] Spanish” (125), and women of color as domestic servants. They might also share the protagonist’s annoyance with people of color dating white people.

In regards to the American dream, once again I don’t see much of a connection in the first story other than perhaps the father felt he’d get it in America. Aside from Rafa mentioning that his father would “be taller” because “Northamerian food makes people that way” (87), there isn’t much commentary on the country. In the second story I think it’s safe to say the American Dream is challenged. Pruitt has it, with affording a nice house, a live-in servant and “newly planted rosebushes” (121). There’s “photos of him on vacations, on beaches” and the protagonist guesses he’s “probably been to more countries than I know the capitals for” (134). Meanwhile, we see at the forefront of this story the people behind the dream, the ones building the frame of it. The people that come to install your pool table, or clean your house, that will never reach the dream because it keeps getting pushed further out of their grasp. For our protagonist, buying things for his girlfriend was “the closet [he’s] come to feeling rich” (125). He spends time wondering “how long it’d take [him] to buy a pool table honestly”, deciding it’d be “two and a half years” if he were to give up the majority of food and clothing (128). So to say, ‘anyone can make it in America’ is not only foolish, but also plays into our country’s history of ignoring the struggles of other races. Or rather, creating said struggles intentionally. Diaz shows us this quite plainly without ever having to say it out loud.

Since I read Delgado and Stefanic first, I was easily able to see some of the issues they were highlighting in action during these stories, which was very helpful. Overall, I hope to continue looking at these kinds of stock stories with skepticism, because a stock story is all the American Dream is. 

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