Thomas Frank

No I don’t think Thomas Frank thinks poor conservatives are stupid but I do think he thinks that they’re ignorant. To best understand what Frank is trying to say regarding the poor conservatives of Kansas it is necessary to look at the evidence from his book. On page 113 he states, “Class, conservatives insist, is not really about money or birth or even occupation. It is primarily a matter of authenticity, that most valuable cultural commodity.” People will continue to be conservatives as long as they associate the “matter of authenticity” with the conservative party. Frank puts it plainly when he says, “Out here the gravity of discontent pulls in only one direction: to the right, to the right, farther to the right. Strip today’s Kansans of their job security, and they head out to become registered Republicans. Push them off their land, and next thing you know they’re protesting in front of abortion clinics. . .But ask them about the remedies their ancestors proposed (unions, antitrust, public ownership), and you might as well be referring to the days when knighthood was in flower.” The most alarming part about this statement is not that it is straight forward and entirely blunt but the fact that it is true. Conservative Kansans are literally digging themselves a hole. Eventually that hole will be so deep that even the daylight of authenticity will disappear and there will be nothing left.

Right wing Kansans are not voting on government issues but moral issues. “These are the issues that touch the lives of almost nobody in Kansas; that function solely as rallying points for the Con followers. They stoke the anger, keep the pot simmering, but have little to do with the practical, day-to-day uses of government power. Thus they allow the politician in question to grandstand magnificently while avoiding an identification with the hated state” (101). What conservative Kansans don’t realize is that the politicians they elect are not solely interested in the moral issues they so proudly display in their campaign ads. Most politicians obtain financing through backing of a corporation trying to push a personal objective.


What Happens When Government is Limited?

I recently watched a documentary called “Food Inc.” and I was shocked to the point of tears while watching this film. Essentially the film is about the food production industry specifically meat, poultry, and produce. It both describes and portrays the conditions in horrific detail of cattle, chickens, and pigs. Whereas I was genuinely upset throughout the entire film I became outraged while watching the portion about the soybean company Monsanto. I was outraged that they controlled nearly the entire soybean production in the United States. In addition, it was upsetting that the farmers who used their genetically altered soybeans were scared for their livelihood. If these farmers dared to collect the fallen soybeans after harvest they were no longer allowed to use Monsanto soybeans and since they control 90% of the soybean industry it would be virtually impossible to buy soybeans from anywhere else. This company literally chases these farmers down to ensure that they are following their close guidelines for using their soybeans. The part that struck me as completely ridiculous is the fact that these farmers are more scared of Monsanto than the government. After watching the entire documentary I decided to become a vegetarian except for what I hunt myself and I now pay very close attention to where the produce I buy is coming from. I cannot believe that the government and Americans allow these companies to monopolize an entire industry. The attitude of less government involvement or conservatism is creating an environment that is too pro-business.


Racism in the United States Today

OMG! This video really opened my eyes up to modern racism. ABC hired actors to do exactly the same thing the only difference was that the first round of actors were white teenage boys and the second round of actors were black teenage boys. In the first video the white boys vandalize a car for approximately 3 hours in a local park and only once were the cops called on them and only twice were they confronted. There were 2 phone calls however to the police about 3 black boys sleeping in a car. They were described as looking like they were going to rob someone. The change in attitude when the black boys begin to vandalize the car is absolutely shocking. It highlights the racism that so many people believe to be long gone in the United States. I only posted the second video of the two because it briefly summarizes the first scenario with the white boys and then dives into the scenario with the black boys.Interestingly enough the thing that upsets the black teenage boys is the fact they had the cops called on them for simply sleeping in a car.


Conservatives and Planned Parenthood

Recently conservatives proposed cutting federal funding for Planned Parenthood. I was shocked at this news. I have known many women who do not have health insurance or college students who do not hold jobs that provide health insurance that rely on Planned Parenthood as a source to receive necessary medical examinations. I have admitted to not being the most savvy person when it comes to economics but it would appear to me that the government would end up spending more on welfare by eliminating funding for Planned Parenthood. Those in poverty can barely afford the discounted services offered by Planned Parenthood without it pregnancies would increase and those women in poverty would then have to rely on welfare to support themselves and their children. The whole situation is outrageous and doesn’t appear to benefit anyone but the selected few in favor of this preposterous proposal.


Malcolm X

1.      Keeping X’s advice in mind, how would you assess the changes in his attitudes towards white people over the course of his entire life?

I think that throughout X’s life he found himself in a constant battle with himself about his feelings towards whites. For example when he conks his hair to mimic whites and then condemns other blacks for doing the same thing once he has become “wiser.” He has many negative and positive experiences that alter his view towards whites several times. He starts out disliking whites because they killed his father and then take his mother away from him. He then meets his foster family who treat him kindly. He also partakes in the unique experience of attending a predominantly white school but he earns top grades and is elected president. At the same time though one of his teachers discourages him from becoming a lawyer. Later he moved to Harlem where he ran in to a lot of trouble with the law and went to prison. He blames whites for his imprisonment. While in prison he converts to Islam which fuels his hatred towards whites until he makes his trip to Mecca. There he encounters white Muslims that he respects and appreciates. He begins to allow whites to aide his cause towards equality albeit separately. At the end of his life he realizes that white racism is the product of circumstances rather than an indication that white people are inherently evil.

2.      How would you assess the changes in his attitudes toward other African Americans over the course of his entire life.

There are three stages to X’s opinion toward other African Americans. In the beginning he believes that blacks are truly at a disadvantage and oppressed. Later while in jail and converting to Islam he believes that blacks are the good descendants of the world while whites are an aberration of evil. Towards the end of his life he becomes more upset with blacks and realizes that only blacks can truly help themselves.

3.      Was Malcolm X a racist? [You are allowed to pick any answer you like, as long as you cite evidence from the book to back it up.]

I don’t think X was a racist I think that he was confused. I think he had racist tendencies for sure but since he did not maintain any one position for very long it is unfair to assume that he was a racist. His encounters with both blacks and whites drastically alter his perception on racism. There are three quotes I’d like to use from the book that I think reflect the confusion he encounters. The first quote portrays his intolerance and hatred for whites. “Yes! Yes, that raping, red-headed devil was my grandfather! That close, yes! My mother’s father! She didn’t like to speak of it, can you blame her? She said she never laid eyes on him! She was glad for that! I’m glad for her! If I could drain away his blood that pollutes my body, and pollutes my complexion, I’d do it! Because I hate every drop of the rapist’s blood that’s in me!” This quote leaves nothing to doubt about how Malcolm feels about whites at this time.
The next quote is not nearly as brash and this is where you begin to see his ideas broaden. “I reflected many, many times to myself upon how the American Negro has been entirely brainwashed from ever seeing or thinking of himself, as he should, as a part of the nonwhite peoples of the world.” He is still genuinely upset with the condition that most blacks face however he is not placing all the blame on whites. I think this quote demonstrates his newfound understanding that blacks too are responsible for the situation they find themselves in.
The last quote shows X’s position on racism at the end of his life. “I’ve had enough of someone else’s propaganda. . .I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it is for or against. I’m a human being first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.” Clearly, X has adopted a new position where he holds both whites and blacks accountable. An entirely new position to those he held in the past. He becomes more open to the idea of allying with whites to further the Civil Rights Movement even if it was separately.
I think it is unfair to say that X was racist at some points and not others. I don’t think he honestly knew what to think. The conking of his hair, change from criminal to upstanding citizen, and various name changes demonstrates how easily Malcolm was influenced. I think it is for this reason that he was able to establish the rank of a primary leader in the Civil Rights Movement. His changing attitude allowed him to gain a perspective many others would never have been able to achieve.


Thomas Sugrue

Thomas Sugrue’s Sweet Land of Liberty teaches people that the nature of racism is inevitable so long as nothing changes regarding the situation of blacks. More specifically as long as blacks do not have the same accessibility as whites then they will never have the same ability to provide for themselves as whites. Sugrue talks about how whites have better access to schools, housing, jobs, etc. Blacks do not have the same opportunities and therefore cannot achieve the same level of prosperity as whites. Location does not matter blacks faced the same issues in the North as they did in the South. If anything living in the North was more difficult because the rules about segregation were not clear.

Racism has the effect of a never ending spiral. If blacks do not have a good education then they cannot better themselves financially. The struggle to find a well paying job will be a continual fight. Without a well paying job then blacks are forced to live in areas that are commonly referred to as “ghettos.” There are many other factors that contribute to the situation that blacks from low income areas find themselves in however these are the ones that Sugrue points out as most detrimental to their ability to prosper. Racial separation was seen as natural by northerners. A case of social Darwinism where only the strong survive and in the case of whites vs. blacks whites almost always prospered. Sugrue states, “Racial inequality would be solved by eliminating prejudice, by persuading whites to tolerate or accept blacks as their equals. These efforts focused on changing the boundaries of discourse and of modifying representations of race, through therapy, advertising, education, and the media. In this view, eliminating racial inequality was a matter of changing attitudes and beliefs; institutional change would follow.” The attitudes of whites will not change unless the stereotype of blacks is altered.

Until blacks really do have the same advantages as their white counterparts racism will never cease to exist. Today as the conservative movement continues to push forward racism will also continue to persist. Even today decades after the Civil Rights Act was passed racism still exists even among people who don’t consider themselves racist. White opinion and black opinion on racism differ greatly. According to Jennifer Hochschild who has written many works on race and public opinion discovered that, “Whites believe that the ‘American Dream’ of equality and opportunity ‘works for everyone,’ but, by contrast, ‘blacks believe it works only for those not of their race. Whites are angry that blacks refuse to see the fairness and openness of the system; blacks are angry that whites refuse to see the biases and blockage of the system.’” Clearly, the issue of equality still resides. Blacks are not seen as equal and never will be seen as equal until they truly have equal access.


Martin Luther King 3 Assigned Readings

Martin Luther King was by all terms of the definition a liberal. A liberal is generally seen as someone who fights for the equal rights of all. King definitely was fighting for the rights of all in trying to achieve equality for blacks. He became more and more liberal as time went on and it’s interesting to see how he transgressed from being somewhat liberal to being a radical.

The first of these speeches or essays is “Letter from Birmingham City Jail” where he addresses claims made by eight Alabama clergymen that his actions would promote violence even if he preached non-violence. In this essay MLK sounds really for the first time genuinely pissed off. He is attacking these clergymen with rhetoric that cannot be argued with. He brings up his own children and their questions to him such as, “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?” He asks these clergymen to answer this question for him when he knows that there is no good or moral answer to that question. He also, attacks why is it ok that some laws be broken and others not. “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others? The answer is found in the fact that there are two types of laws: there are just and there are unjust laws. I would agree with Saint Augustine that ‘An unjust law is no law at all.’” He is still a liberal by all means however in comparison with his earlier speeches or essays this is the first time that he borders the line of sounding like a radical.

In MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech he describes the oppression blacks are still facing even though it is 1968. It’s apparent that he is upset by the situation that blacks are still facing. He is also responding to the recent criticism that blacks were gaining “equality” too fast and that they should be happy with the small growth they made in comparison to not making any growth at all. I think he really demonstrates the power of rhetoric when he brings up his own children saying, “I have a dream my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by content of their character. I have a dream today!” He has always been upset with the way blacks were treated hence the title given to him as leader of the Civil Rights Movement but he becoming more and more aggressive in his speeches and rhetoric.

In “I See the Promised Land” the last of his speeches it is obvious to me that he is genuinely upset about the lack of progress with the Civil Rights Movement and the lack of government involvement to rectify the situation. His rhetoric has become more aggressive and demanding than in the past. It is almost as if he knew that his days were limited. He discusses the richness in monetary means of the United States something that has never before come up in his speeches. “Now, we are poor people, individually, we are poor when you compare us with white society in America. We are poor. Never stop and forget that collectively, that means all of us together, collectively we are richer than all the nations in the world, with the exception of nine. . . That’s power right there if we know how to pool it.” In this statement it sounds as if he is attacking the government. Martin Luther King definitely crossed the line from liberal to radical with this last speech.