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Month: January 2020

QCQ 2: James Hall

Quotation: 

“Well, if anybody’s mean to you you’ve got to be nice to them” (Hall 13). 

Comment: 

This quote is spoken by James Hall in his interview with Gregory Hunter at Duke University. Hall was explaining that, after he had bought sixty acres of land, he was having trouble with James Bachelor, one of the white farmers who owned the land on the other side of his fence (11). Hall said, “my cows got out and he [Bachelor] got out in the road and he drove them in his pen…to get my cows, twenty-five dollars, that’s what I had to pay him” (12). But then, when a similar incident occurred and Hall had Bachelor’s cows on his land, he didn’t ask for any money and simply gave the cows back.

I chose this quote because as soon as I read it, it truly resonated with me. I think when someone is cruel to you, the first instinct is to resent them. To scowl at them whenever they pass by you or take any opportunity to get little revenges. Even just picking them apart at every opportunity, like Bachelor did when he “said that James Hall over yonder, he’s crazy” (11). 

Hall was in an even more difficult predicament than most, though, because he was very limited in what he could do in the Jim Crow south. Any kind of open retaliation might have caused him harm or cost him his life. Indeed, he did face a great deal more opposition doing absolutely nothing, with people killing his animals, burning crosses on his yard, and even putting a bomb in his mailbox (20-21). It was fair to be charged for dealing with animal issues (12), but it’s also  true that politeness might have been his best option when faced with Bachelor to avoid further danger.

What struck me, though, was that that wasn’t how Hall framed his decision. He didn’t say, ‘I did what was best to avoid another blowing out’ or ‘he wouldn’t have given me the money anyway.’ He said, “if anybody is mean to you you’ve got to be nice to them” (13). Even in such an uncertain and frightening time, he still believed that kindness was the way to go. I think that speaks even more the power of his sentiment, that he could hold onto that idea despite the time. 

I have definitely had people treat me poorly throughout my life, and while I never retaliated, I did hesitate to send kindness their way. Hearing about Hall’s experience certainly gives me less of an excuse. Maybe we don’t have to love or support everyone, but maybe continuing to be polite and respectful can go a long way. It may be difficult, and I’m certainly not trying to say you’re a horrible person if you are unable to face certain individuals who’ve wronged you. I’m also not trying to say that marginalized people, for example, have any sort of obligations to aid their oppressors. I do think, though, that kindness is how we might see some changes. Simple acts or words may not create better people, but surprises can still happen. Bachelor did end up relenting about James Hall, “he’s tell to be a little better than I thought he was” (14). And even if we aren’t expecting people to change, it’s still better to be kind than spiteful. 

Question: 

What are some ways we can work with those we disagree with the most?

Class Discussion and Impact:

Lots of us (including me) had the same quote for our QCQs, which amusing, but I like that we all had slightly different takes on it. Several said Hall not asking for money was more about being the bigger person or showing independence and strength. I hadn’t thought of that, though I suppose it’s somewhere along similar lines. Myself and others said it was more about the golden rule and a general kindness (“kill them with kindness”). My perspective has been enhanced somewhat, but I still stand by my reasoning. I also enjoyed the documentary because I really had no idea that Boston had been so against integration. It really makes you challenge the stories that get told about the North and the South.

QCQ 1: Stacey Abrams

Quotation:

“About a hundred and fifty people had shown up for Abrams’s event, which had been organized by Fair Fight Action. Many of them were older white people, and some had volunteered for her campaign” (Cobb 4).

Comment:

This quote comes from the piece Stacey Abrams’s Fight for a Fair Vote, and is referring to Abrams’s visit to the “overwhelming white” Dalton, Georgia during her campaign (Cobb 4). The author noted that some might have seen that as a waste of time, “a seed tossed onto arid soil”, as the town is notably Republican (Cobb 4). However, as this quote indicates, many citizens did appear at the event, with a majority being older adults. 

I chose this quote to speak about because it challenges the oft believed stereotype that the majority of older adults are inherently conservative and against any kind of progress. While I see where people are coming from to some extent, I still think that’s an example of ageism. 

Merriam Webster defines ageism as “prejudice or discrimination against a particular age-group and especially the elderly.” It’s seldom talked about, but just as real as racism and sexism. We hold significantly less value as a society for older adults, and tend to belittle them frequently. One way of doing that is making the leap to say that ‘all old people are cranky conservatives.’ That’s just as harmful as saying ‘all women are too emotional!’

Take a look at this quote, for example. In an area known for conservatism, being mostly white and Republican, we still saw a majority of older adults going to listen to Stacey Abrams. Some even signed up to join her campaign. As further evidence, I recently attended the Women’s March in Portland, ME, where I also saw a good number of older adults marching for equality and justice. Look, too, at one of the Democratic candidates for the 2020 election: Burnie Sanders. He firmly supports social issues such as gun control and reproductive rights, and also happens to be 78 years old. With all of this in mind, I don’t feel comfortable joking about ‘Boomers,’ and I’m not any less appalled to hear statements like, ‘if all these old guys would just die off we could finally get things done.’ 

I will admit that we do see a large number of older, white men among the Republican party, which tends to lean more conservative. I will also note that, coming from Mississippi, I have come across many older people who speak quite plainly about why Trump is amazing and how grossly liberal our country has become. And I have spoken at length in my classes about white backlash and how it can impede progress. Therefore, it’s not my intent to say those people don’t exist or that I don’t have my own issues with them. I simply don’t believe it’s right to claim their age is the only reason for their beliefs.  All people are multi-dimensional, and I would encourage others to examine factors such as place of residence or religious affiliation before making any quick judgements.

There’s this saying ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’ that often gets applied to older adults. People joke they are just too set in their ways and that there’s no hope of them being persuaded to change opinions, and by that logic they write off an entire group. Personal experiences with specific older adults also might lead to this line of thinking. Whatever the reason, though, we need to remember that all people deserve to be treated equally. I more than agree with Abrams’s point during her speech last week that, while a person’s identity does matter, that shouldn’t be the end of who they are. 

Question:

How might political polarization increase prejudice?

Class Discussion and Impact:

While I didn’t get the chance to share my QCQ with the class, I still learned quite a bit. For example, I enjoyed our breakdown discussion about gerrymandering, as I was never clear on what it was and how it really can affect elections. I didn’t know that Maine is only partially democratic but for the most part open to either side in terms of voting. In hindsight this explains why I had encountered so many Republican/right-leaning classmates in high school. I also appreciated the reminder that language is important in terms of legislation/policy, as it really can sway people to a certain direction easily. This actually came up in a reading of mine for my policy advocacy class, so I was glad to see non-political and non-social work students highlight this.

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