Prompt: Recently the Black Lives Matter movement, sparked by the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin, has brought the precarity of Black lives to the forefront of public discourse, particularly as it pertains to policing and the law. Their activism is animated by the acknowledgment of the centrality of the carceral/ criminal justice system to contemporary racial inequalities. Continue reading
I titled my first blog here for this semester’s independent research on the commercial aviation industry “the stories behind the metal birds.” The past few months were a blink. Now, at the end of May, I am sitting in front of my laptop composing my last blog entry. But before I revisit the “stories” I have looked over the course of my work, I want to first share a story about how I personally came to be fascinated by the airline industry.
Afternoon view of the Hollywood Hills (picture taken by myself in January 2017)
Written and directed by Mike Mills, Beginners is a film that deals a lot with loneliness. After his mother’s death, Oliver (Ewan McGregor)’s father, Hal (Christopher Plummer) is diagnosed with stage-four cancer. At the age of 75, he also comes out of the closet and starts living the time of his life. After Hal has passed away, Oliver becomes depressed until he meets a French actress, Anna. They try to make their relationship work while both struggling with issues of their own.
As you can see, this week’s blog is going to be more of a tangent. I procrastinated a little too much last week so I have to do two blogs this week and I just don’t have the time or energy to write two film reviews back to back. (Learn from my mistakes people) I’m currently binge-watching How I Met Your Mother for probably the tenth time around and I thought it would be interesting to share some of my thoughts on the show. I’ve been writing about some pretty sad and heavy films so it’s nice to have a change of direction and talk about the theme of love in one of my all-time favorite comedy.
We wrote this paper to explore how race has impacted our lives and experience at Westtown. I found it to be a great experience.
Racial Auto-ethnography – My Master Key
Privilege abounds before me like few other people. Cis, male, white, affluent, two-parent household, to mention a sampling of such unearned gifts. Life, to this point at least, has been about as much a cakewalk as possible. Through little to no fault of my own, my life will continue along this fluffy, advantaged life. To be honest I would be quite happy if it did. To break down the sum of experiences that led to me, here, right now is difficult. Separating race, from wealth, and the patriarchal advantages from which I benefit cannot be completely done. I am going to at least attempt to untangle my web. If the great privilege of being rich is not worrying about money, than the great privilege of being white is not worrying about race. Continue reading
I wrote a couple of pages. An excerpt from them is below. I also talked to my editor more about the direction of my story and some of the characters. We decided to make my main antagonist more nefarious and cruel, while making my protagonist more idealistic and brave in contrast. Anywho, here’s a brief sampling of last week’s work:
“Alright, time for some chow! Cooks got it back at the meeting place,” I called to them.
They both turned and looked at me confusedly.
“You heard me! Go get it! I’m here to watch the position for you while you eat.” I nudged my pack into the shadows behind me and walked forward. The two warriors looked at each other, shrugged, and began to make their way to the meeting place where Warriors converged at the start and end of the day. I walked over to the ditch in which they had been standing and pretended to be on guard. I waited a minute until I knew they were well on their way and then I darted back and grabbed my pack. I clipped my rifle into a pouch on the side of my pack and swung it onto my back. I ran forward, bounded over the ditch, and hurried through an opening in the wooden barricade Fara had pieced together around the perimeter. I kept on running through the woods, not stopping until I knew I could no longer see or hear the camp. When I had finally put enough distance between the camp and myself, I knelt and took off my pack.
I reached deep into my bag and pulled out my compass. I knew that Thane’s mission had headed southwest from the camp and that their path would be a roughly straight line. I turned and oriented myself to the southwest and tucked my compass in my back pocket. I continued forward at a light jog down the decline, knowing full well that the others would soon know that I was missing. I doubted that the Alphas would send anyone after me due to the risk of it, but I wanted to put more distance between me and them just to be safe. The trees and underbrush thankfully weren’t too thick, elsewise I’d be traveling a whole lot slower. I knew that the terrain would open up as I got closer to Thane’s objective, but until then, the woods were what I had to deal with. It was no problem. The woods are home for me. A place to run, hide, get lost, and be found. Despite the trees and ravines, I never lost sight of the path I had set out on. I knew where I was headed, and the trees weren’t so thick as to limit my view of the stars when I needed direction.
The Pack had been encamped on a small plateau. The mountainside I traveled down as I ventured away from the Pack wasn’t terribly steep, but it was long. At the bottom, the terrain switched to some gently rolling muddy hills. It was there that I picked up the tracks in the dark. Six sets of them. I had been trudging through the mud and almost immediately recognized the other depressions in it. I trained my eyes in on their shapes, their patterns, the echo of the rhythm of the steps of Thane, Garrett, Jon, Shane, Summer, and Cooper. I burned the shapes of their prints into my mind and followed them forward. I’d find them. I wouldn’t lose them now.
Following tracks at night, however, is no small task. It requires immense focus. You not only have to keep your eyes trained on the ground in front of you and the tracks you’re following, but you have to stay wary of what’s happening around you. You have to heighten your awareness of all things. Breaking branches, falling leaves, tumbling twigs, you have to know where they are and what caused them. Us warriors had done this kind of night tracking countless times on hunts and in combat, and though we excelled at it, it was slow, tedious work, especially alone. I got lucky that night, as there were few clouds and a bright moon, but I was still in a wooded area when I first began following the tracks, and the moonlight was often smothered by the brush. As I followed the tracks through those hills, I could hear the animals scamper away at my approach. I caught sight of small herds of deer in the dark, my first instinct always telling me to swing my rifle off my back, raise it to my shoulder, get some sustenance. But I never did. Of course I had food in my pack, but I sure as shit didn’t want to give away my position to anyone else out there that night, members of the Pack or others. I kept my eyes on the tracks. They were my lifeline. I’d follow them back to the camp if need be when I found them. Not if I found them, when.
Thanks for reading and here’s a book I just started: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
Racial Autoethnography (Part 2 of 3)
In addition, my early education at Westtown School, a historically and predominantly white institution, contributed to the way I experienced and thought about my racial identity. All of my teachers were white except for two during my whole elementary school experience and race did not come up too many times beyond Black History Month, or our slavery or Civil Rights Movement unit, but I do remember feeling conflicted about the way I thought about my own race. For example, there were times when I felt allowed to be proud of black people in general, during our jazz unit, or our black poetry unit, etc., but I never felt like I could be proud of myself as a black individual. Possibly because of our school’s mission for equality and essentially, “colorblindness”, we were taught that race was not something we should really think about or care about. As Bonilla-Silva suggests, dominant racial frames, or in this circumstance, the white racial frame, “provide the intellectual road map used by rulers (my white teachers and peers) to navigate the always rocky road of domination and… derail the ruled from their track to freedom and equality” (Bonilla-Silva, 74). I believe this colorblind ideology created less opportunities for me to recognize and be proud of my blackness. Continue reading
Henry and I were tasked with writing a racial autoethnography for our most recent project in our sociology class. What is an autoethnography, India? Don’t worry, I had no idea either. Here was part of the rubric we were given by T. Mauricio. I found it extremely helpful:
“Ethnography is one of the central methods of sociological inquiry. Its central epistemological assumption is that the sociologist can enter a field—be it a working-class town in the Midwestern US, a village of Zapatista resistance fighters in Mexico, or a fraternity chapter house—and generate knowledge through careful attention to how people make sense of their own world, how they’re positioned relative to others in their social environments, and how their institutions are organized. In this paper I want you turn your ethnographic eye towards your own experiences, treating yourself as the field of research. In this paper I want you to consider two open-ended questions: How has race impacted your life? How has race affected your trajectory into-and time at-Westtown School?” (Torres).
Here are the first two pages of my final draft:
Racial Awakening: An Autoethnography
By India Henderson
Despite the stories my mother tells me about my first racial realizations, the first time that I truly remember recognizing my own race–or rather, my difference–was in the 4th grade. We had just started our slavery unit, the lights were out, and a film about the history of slavery in America was playing. I do not remember anything specific about the film, but I do remember feeling particularly embarrassed watching it–the sad, helpless-looking Africans were being stolen from their homes, and it felt awkward that those powerless people looked a lot like me and my family and nothing like many of my peers. My eyes floated around the classroom where all I saw mostly white skin. I was ashamed to realize that if we were living in the time in which this film took place, I would have been the slave and they would have been the slaveowners.
It was not until later that year when we began studying immigration to the U.S. and Ellis Island that I would truly understand how my ancestors arrived on this continent. Our 4th grade class was tasked with researching the origins of our last names. When I went home and asked my parents about what they knew of our last name, I was surprised to learn that Henderson and Redd–my last name and my grandmother’s maiden name–were Irish and Scottish. That was when I was greeted with the same reality that many African-American children must eventually come to terms with during their adolescence. “This country was born in blood and violence against non-European “others”… These colonists and their descendants enriched themselves by what was often a process of genocide directed against indigenous peoples. Soon, too, they or their descendants enslaved Africans to work these appropriated lands” (Feagin, 35). My ancestors did not come here because they wanted a better life like those who came through Ellis Island, but rather, they were brought here by greedy people who ripped them out of their homeland. Although there were Hendersons and Redds who came through Ellis Island, none of them were family members of mine. These names were given to my family because they were the names of our slaveowners.
Learning this information was shocking for me. For much of my elementary school experience, I knew that I was black–a different color than that of most peers, the same color as my best friend, lighter than my dad, darker than my mom–but before this moment it was not that important. It was just a fact of life. You breathe, I breathe, you are white, I am black.
In looking back on my childhood, I am surprised that it took me so long to start thinking about my “blackness” and its historical significance, but I also recognize that my parents and grandparents most likely had everything to do with this by their intentional actions throughout my young life.
“Acts of oppression are not just immediately harmful, but carry long-term effects. In the social science literature, much has been made of the impact of historical racism on black families, subculture, or values…” (Feagin, 22). My black family members have lived through many different decades and experiences and that affect the way they view the world and, thus, the way they desire for me to view the world. My parents were both born in 1966, the year before the historic Selma to Montgomery marches and Bloody Sunday and two years before President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1968. My grandparents were born in the 1940s, a decade where Jim Crow segregation was alive and well–from “separate but equal” education and housing, to lynching and other horrific and commonplace hate crimes.
I do not necessarily see this as a “disadvantage” but rather an extra burden or “cost” to the lives of my black family and black people in general in America (Feagin, 22). Whether it was my mom making sure that I had lots of black dolls and books, or my grandmother making sure that I was being exposed to black art, music, and culture, I was raised by a group of people who wanted me to feel confident and proud in my skin because they feared that for some reason, if they did not do these things, I would not.
Feagin, Joe R. Racist America: Roots, Current Realities, and Future Reparations. 3rd ed., New York [u.a.], Routledge, 2014.
I watched Manhattan by Woody Allen for my English class a while back, and I thought I would write about it this week.
The film centers around a television writer Isaac Davis (Woody Allen) and his relationships with three women: his ex-wife, Jill ((Meryl Streep), who leaves him for another woman, a high school girl, Tracey (Mariel Hemingway), whom he at first dismisses but later realizes to be the love of his life, and Mary (Diane Keeton), a brainy, sophisticated writer who eventually leaves him for his best friend.