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12 years ago @ Race Relations Project - South the h... · 0 replies · +1 points

I agree with the sentiment of the majority of these posts. I am a huge South Park fan. Throughout the course of its run, the show has satirized literally every group I can think of. Matt Stone and Trey Parker have offered biting insights on some of America's biggest and most topical social issues. Included among them have been abortion, stem cell research, and global warming. Celebrities like Tom Cruise, Kanye West, and Al Gore have been targeted as well. In the famous episode "Imagination Land", dozens of fictional characters are satirized. Included among them is Jesus. I was born and raised Catholic, and I took no issue with it. Satirizing religious figures has been around as long as religion itself. People who fail to realize this are usually extremely close-minded. Jesus is depicted in countless South Park episodes, and most Christians realize that South Park is a show on Comedy Central and not to take it seriously enough to threaten the lives of the show's creators. Granted, there are probably a good amount who took extreme offense to Jesus's portrayal, but there has not been an outcry to the degree of Mohammed's portrayal in this past week's episode of South Park. I took a course that studied Islam in high school, so I have some degree of understanding regarding the religion and the culture. However, I think that taking such serious issue with a cartoon show on Comedy Central to the degree that you'd threaten the lives of the show's creators is outrageous and extremely radical. I really don't think any issue is taboo enough to warrant such an outcry. I honestly don't think I can be shocked by anything on South Park because I have realized that South Park is willing to explore some of the most controversial issues in society. However, it definitely speaks to our degree of ethnocentrism that we fail to comprehend the validity of Muslims' protests. One of the most important things I have learned from this class is how to see an issue from other people's point of view. I thought that Sam's lecture on Christian Invaders was very thought-provoking in this aspect. It's very easy to condemn another group as being fanatical, but you really need to step outside yourself and put yourself in their shoes in order to understand the world the way they view it. I had never thought about the degree to which we exploit the resources of other people. It is from this frame of mind that I can say this. I really do not believe that the radical outcries of some Muslim groups are valid or even warranted, but I can understand why they might get so upset.

12 years ago @ Race Relations Project - Want to Learn Chinese ... · 0 replies · +1 points

I think exposing young students to foreign languages is an important aspect of any education. The United States lags behind other developed nations in establishing the mastery of a second language as an essential part of the curriculum. Granted, the second language taught in almost of these countries is English. But I still think it’s important if for no other reason than to instill in students the knowledge that there are other languages and cultures out there. I started taking Spanish in third grade, and I hated it for a long time. I continued taking it through high school, and by senior year I had taken a sincere interest in it. Right now I am working toward a minor in it and hope to study abroad in Spain during the spring semester of next year. I agree with Sam’s assessment that not teaching language in high school is probably not a big deal because most students (including myself) fail to master the language after four years of study. I don’t think the United States should half-ass their attempts at language programs. Either establish them from K through 12 or don’t include them at all.
I think it seems a little arrogant of the United States to not consider the mastery of a second language to be important. A student from South Korea lived on my floor freshman year who could speak English very well. Likewise, a student from China that I worked with this year spoke English fluently. Schools in other countries teach English because it is the dominant language in the world. It is the closest “universal” language we have in business, medicine, and academia. The reason for this is the global dominance of English-speaking countries for the past three hundred or so years. The failure of the United States to acknowledge the importance of mastering a second language seems to suggest that we expect to remain dominant on the global scale, at least for the foreseeable future. I do not doubt that we will do this. There has been a lot of press surrounding the emergence of China as a global power. The fact remains, though, that the United States is the lone remaining superpower, wielding enormous economic, political, and military power. While I think the growth of Mandarin will ultimately prove more legitimate, I think that the growth of Mandarin language programs in the United States mirrors the growing trend of Japanese language programs in the 1980s, as mentioned in the article. I can see why many countries might find the United States a little distasteful. When I tried seeing this issue “through another lens” as Laurie said in class, I realized I would probably be pretty pissed if I had to learn another language because some other nation dominated global affairs.

12 years ago @ Race Relations Project - This is totally off th... · 0 replies · +1 points

After reading many of the comments, and discussing the topic in my discussion group. Sam was right in his observation that it is “easy to say ‘this is sick and disgusting’ and then make some anti-Japanese comment.” So I am going to try to refrain from doing that and try to focus on another aspect of the topic.

I think everyone is in agreement that this game is morally wrong. However, I think the issue of video game immersion has been blown completely out of proportion in the United States. It seems like every other month, some politician is ranting about the need for the tighter regulation of the videogame industry. The issue really became a hot topic after the Columbine shootings in Colorado, after it was discovered the shooters were fans of DOOM, a violent shoot-em-up game. I was just in grade school when the shooting happened, but I remember clearly that my parents became very “anti-videogame” after that. Which I think is ridiculous. People completely disregard the fact that those kids were bullied relentlessly every single day. What do you think provided those kids with the greater motivation to carry out their tragically violent actions, the bullying or the videogame? I have played every single Grand Theft Auto game in its entirety. Shockingly, I have never stolen a car, trafficked drugs en masse, or killed a hooker. In fact, I remain (gasp) an extremely non-violent person. I’ve been in less than five fights my entire life, none of which were motivated by videogame violence. It falls to the videogame player to draw the line between the game and reality. I think anyone that draws on videogames as justification for violent actions is being influenced by some other factor as well, whether it’s bullying, some mental illness, or just bad parenting. I know for a fact that if I played this rape game through to its finale, I wouldn’t go out and stalk some woman on the subway.

The other issue I have with this topic is the fact that videogames draw so much controversy when compared to other entertainment mediums. Movies like the Saw franchise offer some gruesome depictions of violence. A track on Eminem’s Relapse album, titled “Same Song & Dance”, carries on his penchant for violence, detailing the abduction and murder of two women. Where is the firestorm of controversy surrounding these entertainment mediums? As a fan of Grand Theft Auto, the Saw franchise, and Eminem, I can’t see the rationale in condemning one medium for its violence and sexual perversion when those things are pervasive in ALL forms of entertainment. If you’re going to criticize the videogame industry, then at least be prepared to acknowledge that most of its flaws are also present elsewhere in society.

12 years ago @ Race Relations Project - Native Hawaiians. Eve... · 0 replies · +1 points

This topic raises some important issues about the rights of Native Hawaiians. Sam is right in his description of the typical portrait of Hawaii. White sandy beaches, lush tropical landscapes, and soaring volcanoes all spring to mind when Hawaii is mentioned. The movie Forgetting Sarah Marshall represents this to a T. But no one ever thinks about the thousands of Native Hawaiians that are homeless, or living in poverty, or still facing discrimination a decade into the twenty first century. The parallels between the status of Native Hawaiians and Native Americans are obvious. They had a perfectly capable and functioning government. However, when colonizers arrived, they brought foreign diseases and decimated the structure of the native people’s lives. I think it’s important to afford them the same right as Native Americans to establish their own government and to provide assistance when needed. The issue that needs the most attention is how to provide the Native Hawaiians with the same opportunities in housing, jobs, and education as other people. However, it’s important to work towards these goals by pursuing a course of action that doesn’t prove detrimental to other Hawaiians’ lives. The study that showed the $343 million in lost tax revenue is one unfortunate obstacle. I support the idea of establishing a Native Hawaiian government, but it needs to be accomplished in an efficient manner that doesn’t hurt other citizens of Hawaii.
I think this issue has definitely benefited from Barack Obama in office. It is interesting because this topic definitely would not be receiving as much attention had he not been born in Hawaii. I think this is an important facet of democracy. I believe it is not so much about the color of your skin as where and how you were raised demographically. Because he was born there and probably saw a lot of the devastated native people described in the article, it became an important issue for Obama. It is a shocking statistic that twenty eight percent of the state’s homeless are Native Hawaiian even though Native Hawaiians comprise only twenty percent of the state’s total population. The quote from Bert Beaman, a Hawaiian from Keaau Beach Park, really illustrated the desperation felt by most Hawaiians. Beaman said, "It's been far too long for the Hawaiian people to be suffering. Whatever Hawaiians can get, get it and be grateful." It is extremely sad that ethnic groups like the Native Hawaiians and the Native Americans are still so dispossessed in twenty first century America. Hopefully this new legislation and media coverage will draw attention to the rampant inequality that is still pervasive in modern America. Like the whole tampon discussion in lecture, the important thing is to engage in dialogue about it, not push it to the back of your mind.

12 years ago @ Race Relations Project - Does this rudeness thi... · 1 reply · +1 points

I do think the texting in class thing is an awesome concept / technology. The sad reality is that with such a large class, there's bound to be a few people who willing to take advantage of the opportunity to make inappropriate comments anonymously. This is a very interesting question regarding the rude comments that people text. I had noticed the difference in reactions between the insulting comments to white people and the insulting comments to people of color. Some of the comments made about white people were insulting the same way some of the comments were insulting toward people of color. But white people were less aghast when insulting comments were made about them. And some of the comments were pretty insulting. I think some of the comments about white people were probably revenge for some of the comments about colored people. I wonder whether the comments would have been different if the question about what it means to be colored was posed before the question about what it means to be white. I think some white people are still so sensitive about the issue of race relations that they are afraid to get offended about the offensive comments. The fact is though, some of the comments were offensive but white people were afraid of reacting. I think a lot of comments made about people of color are seen by a lot of people as more offensive when compared to the common insults against white people like they suck at sports, they can't jump, etc. There is also the issue of the N word, which someone texted the first day of using the technology. I don't think anyone in the class would say that to a black person's face. No insult to white people is as insulting as that. So I think a lot of white people had that in the back of their minds when people texted offensive things about white people. It's as if that insult prevents white people from reacting when rude comments are made about them: because it can never be as offensive as the N word, so white people think oh well that's offensive, but it's not as bad as the comments about people of color. The fact is though, rudeness does go both ways and white people need to say something when they take offense to a comment, just as people of color need to speak up when rude comments are made about them. Otherwise, it just promotes a culture of silence when insults are made. If people don't call each other out on things like this, little or no progress will be made in the area of race relations. Honesty is the best policy, so if you're offended, speak up.

12 years ago @ Race Relations Project - Prom or No Prom: Just... · 0 replies · +1 points

It's hard not to characterize some parts of the south as socially backwards after hearing stories like this one. Granted, LGBT discrimination occurs throughout the U.S. (and the world) but it seems like many of these stories originate in southern states like Mississippi. I have done volunteer work in poor parts of rural Kentucky, and elements of racism and LGBT discrimination are still pervasive throughout the south. It's sad but true. The teacher's comment for the girl to "remember where she was" seems to reinforce this point. It is crucial in life not to become so set in your ways that you refuse to see validity in the other side. Canceling the prom is unfair to all the students of Itawamba County Agricultural High School, but especially to Constance McMillen and her girlfriend. A lot of high school seniors look forward to their prom all year. It's a time to celebrate completing high school and spend time with peers who you may not see for a long time. To deny a senior entrance to the prom because of their sexual orientation is ridiculous and sad. Their justification of it being due to "distractions to the educational process" is ludicrous. Proms usually come at the end of the year, when (almost) all schooling is done for the year anyway. It is disappointing that LGBT discrimination is still at the point where a school would go so far as to cancel an entire prom instead of dealing with the issue and encouraging open discussion regarding the matter.
I think it is important that the school allow Constance and her girlfriend attend the prom as dates. This story, especially because it is happening in the south, made me think about the Civil Rights movement and how black people faced similar discrimination in every day matters like the senior prom. There definitely had to have been similar cases with interracial couples attending their proms together. But now, interracial couples can be found everywhere, including senior proms. I hope that sometime soon people who are LGBT will be granted full rights and not be subjected to this kind of discrimination. It is unfair for people to have to hide who they are for fear of being discriminated against. The parallels between LGBT and racial discrimination are obvious; Sam spent an entire class period discussing the issue. And I thought most of his stats and arguments were valid and compelling. Allowing LGBT couples in this Itawamba County high school to attend the prom together would be an important step forward for LGBT rights, especially because it's in Mississippi. This would send a message that America is ready to move forward on the issue of LGBT rights. It is essential that we do so.

12 years ago @ Race Relations Project - Native Americans, Oil,... · 0 replies · +1 points

I agree with Sams assessment that this article sheds a new light on the socioeconomic conditions of Native Americans. The Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nations are sitting on a liquid goldmine. This huge natural resource presented them with a dilemma. The Council of the Three Affiliated Tribes had to decide whether it was in their interest to take advantage of this newfound resource at the risk of damaging the surrounding environment and the causing potential health problems. Naturally, the Tribes opted for the former, and I certainly would have done the same. The eagerness of the Tribes to leap at this economic opportunity speaks volumes to most Native Americans lack of any economic opportunity. Spencer Wilkinson Jr., the general manager of the reservations casino, remarked on the irony of the Tribes relocation to their current setting. The United States government has a history of relocating Native Americans to some of the worst land in the nation

12 years ago @ Race Relations Project - The XXX Bible? Who Wo... · 1 reply · +1 points

Although I haven't really identified with the Catholic Church since my freshman or sophomore year of high school, this topic struck a chord with me because I was raised Catholic and attended Catholic school until eighth grade. This article identified some of the problems I have with organized religion, and things that I've been skeptical of since my middle school years. One of the first serious problems I can remember having with the Bible (besides how they got all those animals on Noah's ark) was the whole translation issue. After you spend some time studying a foreign language, you come to learn that parts of a passage’s meaning can be lost when translating between two languages. The Bible has been translated from Aramaic and Hebrew, to Greek and Latin, to English and other modern languages. It’s only rational to assume that some of the original meaning of early Scripture has been lost in the two millennia since its penning. And it’s clear that many euphemisms haven’t survived intact either. In “Adam’s Family Jewels” Krausz describes how tsela, known traditionally as Adam’s rib, was “likely a euphemism for the baculum, or ‘penis bone,’ found in the males of most mammals.” People don’t talk the same way today that they did a hundred, or even fifty years ago. So how well does the Bible’s language really translate, two thousand years later? It’s for these reasons I’ve found it a bit imprudent to strictly interpret what the Bible says.
Another issue raised by Sam’s blog post is the idea of Biblical inspiration. I’ve never really understood the idea. Who decided the credibility of the men who penned the Bible was genuine? If someone claimed divine inspiration, how could anyone disprove him? And when did these divine Biblical inspirations cease? When did God stop inspiring people with divine knowledge regarding how to live a faithful life? If someone claimed divine inspiration today, declaring they had a new book to be added to the Bible, they’d likely be denounced as a deranged religious lunatic. Most people (including myself) view extreme right-wing groups that wield signs claiming things like “God Hates Fags” as completely mental. But how can I disprove such an outrageous claim? How do I, or anyone else, know who or what God hates? The point I’m getting at is how do we know that the claims made by the authors of the Bible were any less outrageous two thousand years ago than the claims made by religious fanatics today? It doesn’t make sense for me to follow the ancient writings of someone who claimed divine inspiration when I would dismiss someone similar today.
The Bible undoubtedly provides some valuable moral lessons and guidelines on how to live a good life. But to take the Bible at its word seems unwise and can be reckless in extreme cases. People have used selective parts of the Bible to justify violence for centuries. And to selectively adhere by some aspects of the Bible while ignoring others is nothing short of hypocrisy.

12 years ago @ Race Relations Project - Swinging Past the Othe... · 0 replies · +1 points

I found Sam’s class on freedom vs. determinism fascinating because it is such a fundamental topic that explains why humans are the way they are. I was raised in a house that promotes the freedom ideology, and that has shaped much of my worldview. My problem with determinism is that I find it indirectly promotes inaction in advancing yourself in the world. While I am more a proponent of the freedom school of thought, I recognize the presence of determinist forces as well. For the most part, I try to land somewhere in the middle. I think one of the worst things you can do is to be “for” an issue to so such a degree that you fail to recognize any validity in the other side. To do so often projects ignorance and obduracy.
The one question in class I found interesting was where you draw the line when assessing why some groups hold more power than others. My great grandparents immigrated to the United States from Ireland. My grandfather didn’t go to college. He worked for a delivery truck service in West Philadelphia for years before moving to Drexel Hill, a Philadelphia suburb. He worked fourteen-hour days to put his ten kids through Catholic grade school and high school. After that, all ten (including my mom) put themselves through college and graduated. I get annoyed with people who fail to recognize the validity of freedom ideology, because my family is irrefutable proof of it. People say it’s easier if you’re white, but my great grandparents came from Ireland. Irish immigrants faced a ton of discrimination in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. They didn’t sit around and feel sorry for themselves, nor accept their lowly status. They worked hard to establish themselves in America, so that their children, grandchildren, and eventually great grandchildren could have better lives.
I thought Sam’s lecture yesterday on why inequality exists and how it evolved was fascinating. I had never thought about factors like resources and climate when it came to why some groups advanced faster than others. His point that it was all luck seemed too simple, but as he delved deeper into the issue, I found it made a lot of sense. If humans are genetically 99.9% the same, it’s only logical that some outside factor would lead to one group’s advancement and subsequent higher status in the world. I think for most of history, determinist principles ruled the day. Slowly but surely, though, it’s become easier to advance yourself in society. I think there is more opportunity for upward social mobility today than any other point in history. I am a firm believer that if you want something bad enough, and you work hard enough, you can do it.

12 years ago @ Race Relations Project - Avatar and the White M... · 0 replies · +1 points

Like many other people who commented on David Brooks’ op-ed piece, I saw Avatar over Christmas Break. With so much publicity and excitement surrounding it, I was unsure whether Avatar could live up to the hype. Thankfully, James Cameron delivered. Overall, I found the movie very entertaining and the visuals nothing short of spectacular. Yet despite its undeniable “wow” factor, I found the story somewhat routine. As I sat there, I remember thinking, “Yeah, this is like a trippy, sci-fi version of Pocahontas.” Avatar, Pocahontas, and the other movies mentioned in Brooks’ article all follow a similar narrative template. Brooks definitely makes several valid points. But I think his claim that the “White Messiah” formula carries racist overtones is more a product of the prevailing trends in Hollywood than any superiority complex, whether subconscious or not, when it comes to Avatar.
The majority of roles in Hollywood go to white actors and actresses. Few can argue this point. The last questions on the quiz from the first day of class asked the percentage of actors in all TV/theatrical roles in 2006 who were white. The answer was 72%. That is an outrageous number. I’ll bet there are few professions whose work forces come close to such discrepancy. Now I am unfamiliar with the inner workings of the entertainment industry, so I can’t speak with any degree of certainty as to whether this number indicates innate discrimination within the industry, though the numbers might suggest so. In any case, the fact is most roles in Hollywood go to white actors. For the “Messiah” formula to work, the lead character must have fundamental ethnic and cultural differences from the natives. In Pocahontas and The Last Samurai, the lead characters are white, and possess fundamental cultural and ethnic differences from the native people they encounter. In these movies, I think some racism is present. In Avatar, however, I disagree. The natives in Avatar are a species entirely apart from the human race. While they clearly draw on an “mélange of Native American, African, Vietnamese, Iraqi and other cultural fragments,” as Brooks says, they are still an entirely different species from outer space. They are blue aliens reaching twelve feet in height. It’s for this reason that I think any number of different actors could have played the lead of Jake Sully, and satisfied the “Messiah’s” necessary ethnic/cultural differences from the natives. There is no doubt in my mind that Will Smith or Jamie Foxx could have played the lead as well as (if not better than) Sam Worthington. And I think any number of other actors could have too, regardless of their ethnic heritage.
In conclusion, I think David Brooks’ article makes several strong points, but in the case of Avatar, his argument is debatable. In The Last Samurai and Pocahontas, a white “Messiah” was preferable to highlight the ethnic and cultural differences between the savior and the natives. But in Avatar, because the aliens differ so extremely with humans, an actor from literally any ethnic background would have been able to emphasize the differences between the humans and the natives.