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Zitkala-Sa and a Modern Navajo College Student

February 9, 2012 Leave a comment

In Teaching of Writing for this week, we read an essay about a Navajo girl whose writing was considered “remedial” by the academic establishment, and her interactions with an African American writing tutor. It was interesting to think about how her experience related to Zitkala-Sa’s, particularly her relationship with school. She went to boarding school, where she and her friends were forced to speak English. She wants to teach in the boarding school, even though she feels that school has forced her to lose aspects of her culture. Apparently, Zitkala-Sa’s narrative is still very relatable (at least as of the 90’s) to the situation of many Native Americans today.

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The Modern Military’s Take on the Alamo

April 26, 2011 Leave a comment

http://www.texasmilitaryforcesmuseum.org/tnghist3.htm

Here’s an interesting website, trying to rally people around the military by giving people examples of historic “Texas military heroism.” Their mission statement is quite telling:

“Tell the story of the Texas Military Forces from 1823 through the present and into the future, support the mission of the Texas Military Forces, honor our veterans, educate our fellow citizens, inspire esprit d’ corps among the men and women of the Texas Military Forces, and inspire our youth to serve.”

The military of the United States has always seemed especially susceptible to myths about our history. The people in charge of recruitment, it appears, believe that it has to be this way in order to get recruits. The idea is that if our nation’s military history isn’t pristine and glorious, then no one will want to fight for the military in the present day. I think that is false, and as long as that notion pervades, we will still fight for the same misguided notions our fore-fathers fought for. If our military, and our state for that matter, were to fully accept its flawed history, it could then start afresh and work toward things that really matter. Things that people want to, need to, and should fight for.

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Imperium in Imperio Question

April 10, 2011 1 comment

It is quite interesting to think of Texas as a region apart from the United States in many aspects, with many local cultures and a unique racial interplay. Texas as a state within the United States has always had a sense of individualism that cannot truly be found in many other states. However, this individualism, it seems to me, has frequently stemmed not from the unique racial interplay of Texas, but from white Texans taking pride in being their own republic at one point in time. So my question for Dr. Levander is: How does the “individualism” of white Texans interplay with the overall notion of Texas as an individual entity, with all the races and racial interplay taken into account?

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Words and Actions

April 5, 2011 Leave a comment

My second to last post was about how Octavia Butler seemed to be promoting the idea of social determinism through the character of Rufus and how social determinism, while often espoused by people who consider themselves revolutionaries, in fact undermines revolutionary causes by making societal change seem to be an impossibility. I talked about how simply educating people about racial issues is futile unless it is backed by concrete efforts at change, and how it seems that many in the academic community do just that, while at the same time upholding social determinism as a prison that traps us inside racist societal structures.

I think when Becca commented on my article, she misunderstood my view about educating people about racial issues. I believe that that is the crucial first step in righting racial inequality, and it should not be undervalued. I am sorry if I made it seem otherwise in my post. And I do think that in a lot of ways, Butler’s Kindred touches on new ways of making people aware of racial problems today. But I don’t think the novel really does a lot in terms of inspiring change, but it instead adopts a pessimistic attitude that causes one to question whether or not there will ever be an end to widespread racism. I think there should be more literature out there does more than just wag its finger at modern racism. People need to be suggesting AND enacting solutions to racial divisions. It is not enough to criticize the unjust and unloving of this world. We need to go out and right those wrongs.

I have had fun with and been thoroughly engrossed by the research we’ve been doing for this class, and I’m glad that it will be made available to the public. I have confidence that it can be a powerful tool to correct problems that have arisen in Williamson County with black cemeteries. However, I hope that action, and not just empty words, will come out of this project.

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Hypocritical Ladies: A Link Between Victorian England and Antebellum South

March 29, 2011 Leave a comment

Margaret Weylin in Octavia Butler’s Kindred is a replication of a character type that seems to have been present in many works of Western literature: the judgmental and hypocritical “pious” lady of the house, usually circa 19th century. I have seen this model not only twice in this particular class (once in Kindred and once in Harriet Jacobs’ Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl) but also in a postmodern British novel named The French Lieutenant’s Woman, by John Fowles, that I am currently reading for Dr. Meyer’s British (Post)Modernism & Movies class. The French Lieutenant’s Woman is a postmodern novel written about characters in Victorian Britain. One woman in particular, Mrs. Poulteney, has the same character qualities that make Margaret such a horrid antagonist in Kindred. Mrs. Poulteney is the lady of a house, and she considers herself to have high moral standing because of this. She looks down on others for their supposed sins in the same way that Margaret Weylin finds fault and sin in all of her slaves. The one really striking resemblance to me, however, was the fact that both ladies end up using heavy amounts of laudanum, which Fowles states was quite normal for the time. This parallel suggests that there is a similar perceived “problem” with women in both the Antebellum South and Victorian England societies, and that the treatment of those women is similar. But the way in which Mrs. Poulteney treats the main character, a poor young woman who has fallen under Mrs. Poulteney’s employment named Sarah, mirrors remarkably the way in which Margaret treats Dana in Kindred. It is remarkable how problems arising from the insecure position of upper-class woman both in England and in the Southern United States results in their almost identical mistreatment of their subordinates.

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Rufus and Social Determinism

March 29, 2011 1 comment

One of the more interesting and controversial issues in Octavia Butler’s Kindred was how it seemed that Rufus was fated to become the kind of despicable character that he eventually became. Butler seemed to make it clear that no matter how Dana tried to influence Rufus and cause him to consider his role in the treatment of slaves, there was very little, if any, actual change in Rufus’ mindset or his morals. In the end, there is not sufficient change to prevent Dana from being forced to kill him. This seems to lead to a troubling realization: that those who are indoctrinated by society to be a certain way simply cannot change.

I have a hard time understanding why some academics and thinkers in general carry such fatalistic views as this. If I had a worldview which made all hope of both personal and societal change so dismally hopeless, I would probably decide to stop thinking about life, philosophy, and politics, and become a hedonist. Nonetheless, it seems that there are people out there who devote their lives to proving the futility of change, particularly in the study of race relations in the United States. I would not go so far as to say that Butler is fully a part of this camp, but she does surround Kindred with a vague feeling that everything is out of control, and that Dana’s ancestral past is inextricable from the present. She does not say that there are no solutions to the problem of racism and imbalances of power in the present day, but she refuses to offer a hint of any. Such a paradigm leaves the reader vicariously exhausted and ready to leave behind all thoughts of race or racism, seeing as how the solution to racism is so elusive when racism is perpetrated by the all-powerful super-consciousness known as “society”.

My point, to summarize, is that criticism of current conditions is overdone when it comes to social issues such as racism. Sometimes authors, such as Butler, make it appear as though there is no escape from social problems, while simultaneously calling for those problems to end. If we want to be able to solve these problems, we need to come up with solutions rather than new ways of phrasing the problem.

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Research Progress

March 8, 2011 2 comments

Throughout this project, I’ve been mostly poking around in the academic world for sources, while my other teammates have been researching through other channels. In particular, I’ve been researching through two avenues: University of Texas resources, and emailing other academics. These have both produced a couple of sources, and I hope to uncover some more! There’s one that I found that might interest Group 2 in particular, but might be a good reference for other groups as well. It talks about the negligence of African American cemeteries in Texas. Let me know if you’re interested! I have it on a Word document, and I can email it to whoever needs it.

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