Bryan Stevenson Lecture 1/28

By: Caison Gray

I attended the Bryan Stevenson lecture. I was very excited to witness Mr. Stevenson speak after our trip to Montgomery, Alabama. Mr. Stevenson did not disappoint and gave a lecture that I believe truly mattered. I believe Mr. Stevenson’s goal of the lecture was to provide students with ideas and information that could not only help them confront and understand racial injustice, but to move forward and counteract racism’s harmful effects.

In order to make his lecture truly make an impact, Mr. Stevenson broke it up into four points. The first point highlighted the importance of becoming proximate. Mr. Stevenson elaborated by stating how you cannot work against ideas and institutions if you do not confront them personally. It is impossible to help people that you do not understand or interact with. The second point highlighted the general narrative surrounding race that currently exists in America, and how it needs to be changed. The idea that there is a difference between white people and nonwhite people started as a justification for slavery and has existed in America ever since. We must work to change the narrative in order to begin moving forward. The third point highlighted the importance of hope in dark, difficult times. Becoming negative and giving up is the easy route, but having hope is the way to create a positive change. The final point highlighted the fact that in most situations, you must be prepared to be in uncomfortable situations in order to move. Creating change requires saying and doing thinks that feel uncomfortable and difficult.

Mr. Stevenson emphasized the fact that we are facing an epidemic of incarceration. Bryan Stevenson said “I represent the broken. I come from a broken system.” Determination and persistence is required, especially from the young people, if we want to make a change to the narrative.

Unit Eight Assignment One

By: Caison Gray

Shadows of the Summit Pointing West”

!: Meinhof must have paid very close attention to current events.

?: Why does America have so much influence in international organizations?

Hitler Within You”

!: People who participated in the Nazi regime who wanted to reduce suffering considered themselves exonerated.

?: How can a society move past its dark history when most adults participated in the evils of its past?

“Human Dignity is Violable”

!: For Meinhof, nuclear weapons and democracy can never go together, for these weapons directly destroy peace and freedom, two concepts that are foundational to democracy.

?: Was demilitarization a popular idea at the time that the Constitution was written?

“Women in the SDS: Acting on Their Own Behalf”

!: Women’s household work is not seen as valuable because its effects aren’t obvious to society.

?: Must an entire system be overturned to change one issue?

“Columnism”

!: Ironic that Meinhof characterizes columnists both having no power and as literary stars.

?: Does the columnist write to share their truth or simply to make a profit? 

The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum

!: I am surprised that the producer had the freedom to critique the press so harshly. Perhaps this is why he added the disclaimer at the end.

?: Was the publisher’s highly hypocritical speech at Tötges’ funeral meant to be humorous? 

Baader-Meinhof Complex

!: Interesting how divisive the RAF was to the German public despite being branded as terrorists.

?: How did the RAF justify their goal of a more humane world with inhumane methods of trying to achieve this?

Unit Seven Assignment One

By: Caison Gray

After reading both translations of Akhmatova’s work, my group and I unanimously agreed we enjoyed the Anderson translation more than the Thomas translation. Anderson relayed the information in a more simplified tone while Thomas chose to translate the work word for word. Even though both approaches make sense, I resonated with the work of Anderson more because the poems had better flow and rhythm, allowing myself to better understand the poem while Thomas’ work felt more choppy, making it more difficult to comprehend. Also, Anderson was successful in maintaining rhythm. Many lines in Anderson’s translation are syntactically reversed in comparison to Thomas’s translation. Overall, I was able to appreciate the poetry of Anderson over the poetry of Thomas.

!: Stalin’s censorship of art and literature 

?: When did poetry start holding so much weight in Russia?

Unit Six Assignment One

By: Caison Gray

I found it interesting how Snow suggested education reform as a solution to the polarity of the two cultures. The text was written in 1959 but the education system still seems more specialized in England than in the United States today. Also, Snow blames England’s “tendency to let social forms crystallise,” meaning that Snow believes England is slow when it comes to giving in to cultural changes (17)

“That total incomprehension gives, much more, pervasiley than we realise, living it, an unscientific flavor to the whole “traditional” culture, and that unscientific flavor is often, much more than we admit, on the point of turning anti-scientific.” I am confused by this quote because I genuinely do not understand what it is saying. My poor interpretation is that things we do not typically associate with science are more closely affiliated with it than we think. I feel like this is an important section within in the text and need to better understand it (11) 

Scientific Theories that I recognized:

Special Relativity Albert Einstein, 1905

General Relativity, Albert Einstein, 1915

Evolution by Natural Selection, Charles Darwin, 1859

Heliocentrism, Copernicus, 1543

Scientific Experiments that I recognized:

“Gregor Mendel Cultivates Genetics”

“Issac Newton Eye Optics”

Marie Curie Radioactivity

“Ivan Pavlov Salivates at the Idea”

Ethnic Notions: “Minstrel Shows”

By: Caison Gray

These Minstrel Shows, in the documentary, were seen as a “door way to opportunity.” However, these shows seemed to provide little opportunity, besides little monetary compensation. For the most part, these shows only worsened the status of the black population.

Why would members of the black population volunteer to participate in these degrading shows? The performers were not forced to participate, they chose to. Therefore, the performers volunteered to humiliate themselves in such a demeaning context.

Unit Five Post One

By: Caison Gray

Schneider

! : “Clearly concatenations of primitivism and attendant racisms attach, in turn, to attempts to acknowledge performance as an appropriate means of remaining, of remembering” (102). Schneider’s belief that it is primitivism and racism that coincide with performance as a method to preserve history was difficult to comprehend. To think racism contributes to this thought process seems unpopular but makes sense as a way through which people have begun to realize performance as a powerful preservation tool.

? : If performance is not the presence of “remains” but rather the “missed encounter, […the] reverberations of the overlooked, the missed, the repressed, [and] the seemingly forgotten,” (104), does performance studies validate memory as a means of preservation? Or does it simply provide a skeleton for historicizing the uncapturable? 

Birns

! : “The ultra-historicism of official memorials make us assume that the past is finished, when we still have the power to construct it” (22). Without a critical eye and the belief that each reapplication to a subject or event is an “iteration,” we risk falling into complacency in relation to the established beliefs of the past.

? : “In Tree, he conjures a performative idiom literate in many languages, musical and gestural, Western and non-Western” (18). What is a performative idiom?

Campus Commentary Events

By: Caison Gray

Professor Quillen on “Being human”

Professor Quillen spoke on September 3rd about how she, personally, believes that storytelling is the key component on attempting to answer the question of “What makes us human?” Within her lecture, she discussed how listening to and sharing various narratives connects people, allowing them to see the humanity in others. Professor Quillen took an interesting standpoint on the terms of liberalism. She pointed out the insufficiency of focusing on the concept of “all equal” and of reason, which we discussed in relation to Locke’s philosophy. The generalized language choice dehumanizes those who are seen as “alien.” Professor Quillen concluded her lecture with the possibility that a liberal framework is valid but only if we focus on listening to stories as well. By doing this, we are able to respect all of humanity and recognizing the differences between us. Overall, this lecture taught how by respecting various opinions, it would be possible to resolve conflict in our society which is filled with unnecessary issues.

Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5

On September 24th, I attended the Davidson College Student Orchestra’s performance of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5. I very much enjoyed how the conductor provided background information about the piece and about Tchaikovsky before the music began. I also found it interesting how the conductor made the point in mentioning how we could never exactly know the thought process Tchaikovsky had when composing his music. Therefore, throughout the concert I attempted to listen to musical keys that would potentially explain what Tchaikovsky was feeling while he composed different sections. In high school, I was honored to have played Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5. However, by attending the concert from an audience viewpoint, I was able to have a new perspective on the music that I was unable to have while playing. I could hear how each instrument built on each other to get the overall picture Tchaikovsky wanted, versus on only focusing on my instrument, the clarinet, part. Overall, I was impressed and blown away by the talent and maturity my peers had while playing such a demanding and intensive piece of musical literature.

Raymond Santa

On November 14th, I attended the Raymond Santa talk. Raymond Santa was a member of the Exonerated Five, who was jailed, at the age of 14, for 6 years. This false imprisonment was after the Central Park Jogger Case. It was an overwhelming experience to hear Santa’s personal experience through the interrogation, trial, imprisonment, and eventual exoneration. I had also watched Ava DuVernay’s When They See Us, which allowed me to fully comprehend the horrors that the falsely accused boys endured. When I had first watched this show, I was horrified at the lack of humanity America had for these young boys, simply because of their ethnicity an upbringing. Eventually though, the boys were freed from jail thanks to a confession from the criminal and DNA testing. Santana described the impacts of the 11-year civil suit that finally gave the men compensation for their wrongful imprisonment as “Even though we have won, we still lose because at the end of the day that gap is gone. How do we keep moving, keep living? They controlled the narrative of our story.” What surprised me the most was the light and hopefulness brought to us despite everything that he had endured. He was nothing but positive and supportive of our role as the next generation of voters, activists, and leaders. His words were incredibly inspirational and moved me to feel as if I could truly help to create change. “We found out we had a voice. We gotta use this platform to save our children. All of ’em…You have ideas. Use them. Live life to the fullest and go to the grave empty…March the truth. Don’t cut the corners. Occupy those spaces. Shoot for the top.” He ended his speech with the powerful phrase of “I’ll see you on the battlefield.”

Unit Four Assignment Two

By: Caison Gray

Pages 134 and 135 of March Book Two by: John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell

On pages 134 and 135 of the book, the young African American children of Birmingham Alabama are participating in the march of their lives. These children are marching for their equal rights, even though their parents had been just arrested for the same reason. They have the goal of finishing the march that their parents started. 

These two pages helped me better understand the tension that existed between the black and white community at the time of the march, no matter the age of the participants. During the Civil Rights Movement, thousands of minors were arrested for vocalizing their idea of equality. Humanity allowed for the lines to become so blurred over the color of an individual’s skin color, that children suffered just as much as adults. When learning about the Civil Rights Movement, we predominately discuss the adult figures that made an impact. However, these two pages, and the majority of the book and other sources we have discussed, show me the amount of “unnoticed” individual’s that had an impact. Children had a huge impact on the Civil Rights Movement, yet they are rarely discussed when learning about this societal milestone. 

The size of the illustration on page 135 also left me with quite an impression. As a reader, having the illustration take up the entire page drew me in and forced me to look at the details in front of me. I felt a stillness within the faced-paced writing of the book, slowing me down and fully absorbing the impact the illustration had. I saw a young black girl standing her ground in front of an adult white police officer. The girl is standing straight up, with her shoulders back, and head held high. The white police officer, however, is lowered onto his knee in order to be at the eye-level of the girl. Then a simple, yet powerful dialogue is exchanged between the young black girl and the adult white officer. The dialogue was a powerful display of the powerful involvement of children in the Birmingham March and the injustice of the Alabama police department.

The fact that a young black girl had the strength to face her fear and stand up to an adult white police officer proves the fact that there was hope during the Civil Rights Movement. Nothing was going to stop the African American community from achieving and fighting for the rights they deserved. 

Unit Four Assignment One

By: Caison Gray

Both Wells and Terrell are black female activists from the late 19th century. Terrell’s writing focuses on the violence of exclusions, describing how black women in Washington are excluded from necessary life resources. These stabling life resources included shelter, goods, jobs, and overall general equality. The extent of the discrimination Terrell wrote about of black women created an unstoppable disadvantage. Wells wrote about the violence of lynching, which was a form of mob violence against black people. Wells described lynching as an “unwritten law” that was a part of United States society. When there was any conflict between black and white people, lynching dictated the black person would be killed. There was no option of a trial or any form of fair consideration. The violence of lynching took away the safety, freedom, and lives of black people in the United States. Both of the forms of violence were results of the racial prejudice that exists in the United States. The long-standing idea that white people are superior to black people has caused there to be unjust treatment of black people that exists today. Terrell offered the solution, to black people, of rising up and do their absolute best to prosper in society. Black progress was how Terrell believed the violence could be solved. Wells focused more on the deconstruction of the oppressive system by fighting lynching in every possible way.

Unit Three Assignment Three

By: Caison Gray

In both the Gourevitch and Sontag texts, images of violence and suffering, along with individual’s reactions to them, are discussed. Gourevitch describes corpses of genocide victims, focusing on those of the Rowanda genocide especially, and the aftermath of the genocide. Along with a description, Gourevitch provides personal accounts from survivors of the Rowanda genocide to provide even more information of the severity of the genocide to his readers. Gourevitch aimed to make his audience feel uncomfortable by challenging them with the realities and horrors of the Rowanda genocide that were kept from them by the mainstream media. Sontag discusses in her writing the effects of both the censorship of disturbing images by the media and the lack of effect the overuse of disturbing images can have. Gourevitch’s opinion of the under-publicized genocide in Rowanda is an example of disturbing images and accounts that would influence readers to change their opinion. However, according to Sontag, the images and accounts would simply be interpreted in an individual’s mind to fit their own preconceived thoughts. The individuals who see the images or read the stories will feel sympathetic towards the victims of the Rowanda genocide, but it still will not be apparent to them to become actively preventative of such horrors from happening again.

Unit Three Assignment Two

By: Caison Gray

Chapter 1

Sontag starts her book by discussing Virginia Woolf’s response to a London lawyer who questioned the reason behind war and how we can prevent armed responses. Woolf points to the difference between men and women, that men start, participate in, and are excited about the idea of war while typically women do not support war. Woolf used photos to have a conversation the lawyer about war and the outcomes. Photos from war are generally comparative and without captions, it is hard to know which war is shown in the photo. It is not uncommon for people to think that photos of war are staged, acting as propaganda. Sontag also mentions the question of what we are missing from the photos not shown.

Photos are powerful, deliberate messages, but they can be interpreted differently depending on an individual.

Chapter 6

There is an innate human desire to see gruesome things and to view the pain/mutilation of others. Sontag compares this “natural desire” to being similar to “natural sympathy.” Photos of suggestive circumstances play different roles depending on the individual viewing them. An individual could feel multiple ways: an internal strengthening, an internal awakening, a sense of numbness. Sontag acknowledges that it can be difficult for people to be affected by situations that are not directly happening to them. Having conflict is a normality in our world, and as long as we are sympathetic, we are not going to feel as though we have any part in another’s suffering.

Humans enjoy viewing the painful experiences as others, but they feel no responsibility as long as they also feel sympathy to those affected.

Chapter 8

Memory is the only relation we can have to the dead, and once we make peace, the dead are forgotten. In our world today, we are consistently being shown horrific stories/images on the news. However, our ability to better think about people far away who are suffering is unaffected. Our smugness and ability to not do actively do anything about these foreign situations is why photos from these areas are so impactful. Unfortunately, even though we do look at the photos and watch the news stories, we are still acting as bystanders. There is nothing wrong with empathizing and experiencing pain and suffering of others from a distance, but even though we are then thinking about the situation, nothing is directly benefitting those being harmed.

It is necessary to remember, and reflect on, the horrors of the past to not forget them, which photos allow us to do no matter the distance they occurred.

Unit Three Passport Assignment

By: Caison Gray

Initially, when I heard about this project, I was excited to participate. I wanted to see exactly what it meant to become a new citizen of a country. Arriving at Union, I drew my new country out of a jar and became the newest citizen of Spain. Initially, I believed that I would learn more about my new country, including their immigration customs and culture. Unfortunately, the information I was given did not go in as much detail as I wanted. However, I was still able to enjoy the amount of information I was given and going through the fun process of creating my passport. As I was creating my passport, I realized some of my peers around me had pulled the title of “stateless” out of the jar. Seeing that the possibility of not having a citizenship made me appreciate mine even more. Having a national identity that is recognized is a privilege, one that I did not understand, until this activity, that some people do not have. Overall, I enjoyed the concept and process of this activity but wish I had received more in depth information on my specific country.

My Spain Passport
Me excited to be a new
citizen of Spain 🙂

Unit Three Assignment One

By: Caison Gray

(https://www.brainpickings.org/2017/02/07/hannah-arendt-the-banality-of-evil/)

  • The book is about the trial of Adolf Eichmann- a chief archaist during the Holocaust
  • Teaches the reader about the concept of wickedness                                                 
  • Evilness is normalized in the banality of evil

(https://aeon.co/ideas/what-did-hannah-arendt-really-mean-by-the-banality-of-evil)

  • Eichmann organized the transportation of Jews to concentration camps
  • Arendt found that Eichmann was a bland bureaucrat — he didn’t seem evil
  • Eichmann wasn’t a monster she concluded in her study of the trial called Eichman in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil  
  • He performed evil deeds without evil intentions
  • Banality of evil: Eichman not inherently evil, shallow and clueless, a follower, found his purpose through the Nazi’s

(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eichmann_in_Jerusalem)

  • Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil was written in 1963 by Hannah Arendt
  • About a Jew who fled Germany during Hitler’s rise to power 
  • “The banality of evil” phrase was introduced in the beginning of the book and also act as the last words in the book
  • Eichmann “had only understood the concept of one man’s actions coinciding with general law. Eichmann attempted to follow the spirit of the laws he carried out, as if the legislator himself would approve.”
  • Eichmann was unable to think for himself
  • Eichmann was a joiner- not because he believed in the ideals of the organizations that he was joining, but because he wanted to be apart of something- he wanted to be a part of the group
  • Eichmann was tested for personality disorders before he was imprisoned- and none were found
  • Arendt believed that even though the Holocaust was such a deadly and terrible event, some of the members of the Nazi party did not hop on board because they believed in the movement, but because they wanted to follow something and be a part of something
  • Arendt’s thesis claims that Eichmann was an average person, and he relied on clichés and the idea of promotion and not ideology in order to advance himself- not his mind