Wednesday, April 29, 2009

History of Africa

Africa is a huge country, with a lot of misinterpretations. This history of Africa does not start with the colonization of it, like many people seem to believe, there was a history at the beginning of time. According to archeologists primates originated there, the first "human" was in Africa. 
Even though we have the facts that Africa has more of a history then just colonization, why is it that people still seem to think that these people would not have existed if there was not colonization? I know that is an overgeneralization about what everyone believes, but there is always a picture of barbarism, tribal warfare, chaos, dictatorships and so on. After reading about the Hutu and Tutsi in Burundi and after we watched Hotel Rwanda it got me thinking about the history of the people of Africa and the history of the whites. 
In  the novel Purity and Exile by Liisa Malkki, she mentions the history of the Hutu and the Tutsi. She talks about how they we told apart even though they looked very similar. The colonialists came to Burundi and Rwanda and decided to measure their noses and those with longer noses were Tutsi and those with wider noses are Hutu. Before the colonialists arrived and made those distinctions there were a lot of intermarriages and the people lived peacefully. 
So after the genocide in Rwanda, and after the exile of Hutus from Burundi, does there history begin after that and hold whatever happened as the horrible Hutu or the horrible Tutsi? How come they have a history of only the genocide and exile? Why is their history of times before the colonialists gone? Why was is erased? Is it forgotten?  We learn in class about how they did live together in harmony, but when did they live in harmony? How come that harmony is no longer present? Is it because of the colonialists? How can a person change the history of a country forever? 

Thursday, April 23, 2009

What is it if not Genocide?

The two articles I read for this post are: which talks about the reluctance of calling the events in Rwanda a genocide. I also looked at: which was about the UN Commission calling for a genocide tribunal. However, even in the second article, genocide is written in quotes.

I take issue with the reluctance of the US and global community calling Rwanda a genocide. To me, it was a genocide. Masses of people were killed based on ethnic classifications. Though the conflict also included political aspects, the basis for who was to be killed was ethnic. Though the killings may not have been carried out primarily for the purpose of ethnic cleansing, the way the murders were committed looks like genocide to me. Furthermore, I don't understand how people don't want to label it as a genocide when the UN Commission is urging it to be addressed as such.

People who had things to say on the matter point to the danger in using the word genocide. I see more danger in not using the word. If it is not looked at as genocide, no real insight can be gained as to the causes of the massacre. If you do not outright address the ethnic aspect of Rwanda, there is not way you can examine the effects of their ethnic system. You are left with an incomplete view, one that only suggests the killings were the result of ancient notions of tribalism. The deaths of all those people, often at the hands of friends or neighbors, just looks like random and senseless acts of violence if the word genocide is left out. In not succumbing to the fear of the word genocide, one can begin to look at the events that occurred critically. They do not just become another case of a savage and lawless Africa.

In my opinion, based on what I've read, I feel that people don't want to label it as genocide because then it can remain outside of their responsibility. Once it is labeled as genocide, the issue of whether or not to intervene arises. I believe that people do not want to get involved. They do not want to accept any fault for what occurs overseas. Though the US was not directly involved in the killings, this country is a major player in the world history of colonialism. I believe colonialism played a role in what occurred in Rwanda. Once the massacre is labeled as a genocide, it also calls in question other countries' rights violations. No one wants to call it genocide lest the finger be pointed at them. An example of this is China's reluctance to be a part of the tribunal. China did not want their own practices to be called under fire.

I think it is dangerous to not be honest about what goes on in the world. If thousands upon thousands are killed because of who they are ethnically, is it not genocide? An inability to correctly identify what Rwanda was in 94' will only allow it be swept under the rug and potentially happen again there, or elsewhere.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Avoidance of the Issue

In reading newspaper articles published during the Rwandan genocide, one thing is very clear. During the time that the genocide actually occurred, it was not officially recognized as genocide from Western countries with the power to prevent the acts. There was no newspaper articles about what should or could be done, but rather only talk about whether the killings were acts of genocide or genocide.

Maybe this is easier to say looking back, but this seems completely ridiculous to me. It is as if outside countries were looking for any excuse not to get involved. I understand that there are many complications and consequences that can happen when an outside country gets involved in foreign territories, but the US, as well as others, vowed at the 1948 international convention, to never allow genocide to occur in the world. During the genocide though, our government, "side-stepped" the issue as Thomas Lippman from the Washington Post put it.

What makes this such an issue to me, is the contrast that can be found in articles written in the late 90's, after the genocide was over. None of them argue - the genocide that happened in Rwanda is absolute, there is no more dodging talk about 'acts of genocide. Instead they talk about the abundance of signs that pointed towards the event, as well as the extremity of the genocide. Lisa Melvern writes, in an article provokingly titled, "The record for killing by machete was 1,000 every 20 minutes", about the development of the Interhamwe in Rwanda. This group seems to be something comparable to the Nazi SS, but at the same times has its own unique, cruel and twisted methods of killing. Melvern shatters the argument that this was a civil war, explaining how the Interhamwe created training camps for speed killing. In these camps, the record set for killing with a machete was 1,000 people in 20 minutes, which is a rate that is 5 times faster than methods used by the Nazis (Melvern 1999). Soldiers were trained to cut the achilles tendon of people so that they could not escape. During the early 90's, the Interhamwe formed these training camps in all of Rwanda's 146 communes.

People were trained to target not soldiers, but an ethnic group of people, the Tutsi. To 'prepare' the country for this event, a radio station, the RTLMC, began broadcasting about 6 months before the genocide. They gradually, but surely increased the openness of there disdain for the Tutsi, and when the genocide began, they supported and encouraged the event over the radio waves in Rwanda. It is reported that even two years before the genocide, Western countries received intelligence that the Hutu in Rwanda were moving towards an attempt to eliminate the Tutsi population and political competition, and that the moves towards democracy in the country was propelling the Hutu towards the event.

It seems foolish to think that Western governments were ignorant of the true nature of the genocide while it was happening, and probably even before. I have a real problem with this. If we as a country do not want to stop these things from happening, that's fine, it is our choice; but when we make the vows, treaties, and claims to the American people and world at large, that we will always do everything in our power to stop the events, we are obligated to do something meaningful to stop the situation. Instead though, our governments response was to provide $68 million dollars in aid, that went primarily to refugees already outside Rwanda. That's a good thing to do, but it doesn't solve the problems in Rwanda itself. When our country falls short of living up to its promises of the past, it really creates a lack of faith in my mind about our future. Is our country really founded on moral values and committed to the spread of democracy and the freedom of people? Are we really the bringers of peace around the world that we have claimed to be in this last century? Or are we a country that is only concerned about our best interests? If so, do we really think that is going to work out for us in the long run?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

genocide in Rwanda in the 1990s

Publication Logo
Belfast Telegraph

December 19, 2008 Friday
First Edition

Top official convicted of genocide in Rwanda


LENGTH: 579 words

FORMER senior defence official Theoneste Bagosora has been convicted of instigating Rwanda's 1994 genocide and sentenced to life in prison.

Bagosora and two co-defendants were found by a UN tribunal to have led a committee that plotted the massacre of ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

It is the first time the Rwanda tribunal has convicted anyone of organising the killings.

More than 800,000 people were killed in Rwanda's genocide.

Along with Bagosora, former military commanders Anatole Nsegiyumva and Alloys Ntabakuze were also found guilty of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, and given life sentences.

Bagosora (67) and the two senior military officers were found to have organised, trained and armed the Interahamwe militia, which was responsible for most of the killing.

They were also responsible for drawing up a list of Tutsis and moderate Hutus who opposed their vision of an ethnically pure Rwanda.

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), based in Tanzania, rejected the defence's argument that the killing was not organised, and therefore not genocide.

Bagosora's lawyer, Raphael Constant, said his client would appeal against the verdict.

Brigadier Gratien Kabiligi, the former chief of military operations, who was on trial with Bagosora and the two other men, was cleared of all charges and ordered to be released from custody immediately.

In another verdict yesterday, the tribunal sentenced Protais Zigiranyirazo (57) to 20 years in jail for his part in the genocide.

Mr Zigiranyirazo, a brother-in-law of former President Juvenal Habyarimana, was accused of ordering Hutus to kill 48 people in two incidents.

The Rwandan government said it was "satisfied" with the court's decision to impose a life sentence on Bagosora.

The Rwandan representative to the ICTR, Aloys Mutabingwa, said "justice has been delivered" but added that the acquittal of Kabiligi was "surprising".

"The court ruled that Bagosora had the authority over the killers. It is the most important thing... there can never be genocide without planning," he said.

Prosecutors said Bagosora assumed control of military and political affairs in Rwanda when President Habyarimana's plane was shot down in 1994 - the catalyst for the genocide.

However, the indictment alleges that he began planning the massacre as far back as 1990.

The following year, Bagosora helped draft a document circulated within the army that described Tutsis as "the principal enemy".

Canadian General Romeo Dallaire, head of UN peacekeepers in Rwanda at the time, described Mr Bagosora as a "known extremist" and the "kingpin" behind the genocide.

Bagosora has been in custody since 1996, when he was arrested in Cameroon where he was in self-imposed exile.

The trial, which began in 2002, was expected to last two years.

The tribunal, which has come to play a key part in the process of justice and reconciliation, has so far convicted 34 people and acquitted six others. Twenty-three remain on trial and eight trials have yet to begin before the tribunal winds up next year.

The effects of the genocide are still being felt in the region, in particular across the border in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Some of the Hutu militias involved in the genocide fled to DR Congo, where Tutsi rebels, allegedly with some Rwandan backing, refuse to lay down their arms, saying they are being attacked by the Hutu fighters.

Some 300,000 people have fled their homes in DR Congo this year because of this conflict.

this article stated about how many people have been killed and relocated. For the most part it was demographics, however there was apart where the people were happy with the court's decision.

Rwanda Genocide

The first article I looked at was The was from 1990 shortly after the violence had begun. During a rebel invasion, the Rwanda Government fought back, but in their violent attack killed hundreds of innocent civilians. Not only does the army and government claim that they did not kill innocent civilians, but when presented with the bodied they claim that the hundreds killed were only rebel fighters.

I read another article in which there are peace keeping forces sent to Rwanda. The presidents of Uganda, Burundi, Zaire, and Rwanda all decided to send peace keeping forces to enforce the cease fire that had been established between Rwanda troops and the rebels. At this time, 1990, the rebel Tutsi tribe was advancing toward the capital with plans to over throw the president.

In both articles I couldn't help but notice the fact the the Tutsi were simply called rebels. In fact, when I first read them, although I had assumed the "rebels" were the Tutsi, I was confused about who the rebels were. Not once in the first article does it clarify who the rebel tribe was. I don't want to repeat what was said in another blog, but I couldn't help but notice the negative title ascribed to the Tutsi.

As a minority, the "rebel" Tutsi tribe had an issue with President Habyarimana, a Hutu. They accuse him of corruption and wanted democratic representation. It appears that the fact that the Tutsi were a minority gave a negative title. Its hard to find articles ever supporting the Tutsi. Its almost forgotten that 100s of thousands of Tutsi refugees live in exile. I found an article at one point (but can't remember where or the title or the article) claiming that the cause for the Tutsi up-rise and invasion could have been for the return of the 100s of thousands of Tutsi in exile, which isn't to hard to believe.

Rwanda; Seven Genocide Survivors Mysteriously Murdered in Last Eight Months

This article struck me as interesting because of its relatedness to Malkki's work on the people of Kigoma in their search for an "identity" that did not revolve around that of a "refugee". As the title suggests, the article describes a number of murders that took place involving Rwanda Genocide Survivors. This struck me as interesting because Malkki's work immediately brought about sudden realization. In reading Chapter Four of Malkki's book Purity and Exile, i found that the people that migrated to Kigoma were searching for an identity that did not involve being a 'refugee' or, for that matter, being 'Hutu'. From the examples in the text, I could minimally understand this, but in reading the title of this article, it brought a clear focus on the question of identity. From this article, I could see the importance in hiding one's identity. Now, as I read the article, I cringed at the horrible ways in which the people were murdered and wondered how people could act in such a way? As I continued to read, I thought about the title and it struck me to look at the date. What was really interesting was that it was dated September 4th of 2008. I wonder now... how could people that testified about something that happened in 1992, still have to live in fear in 2008? It then occurred to me that Identity can mean saving your life. With the refugee peoples in Kigoma, they often talked about switching between identities and not staying true to one particular identity. It seems to me that in a situation such as this one, it becomes important to change your identity at the cost of your life.

Shouldering Responsibility for Rwanda

I want to comment on two articles I read which discussed issues of responsibility both during and after the naming and occurrence of a genocide.

The first is "Israel Urged to Comply with UN War-Crimes Tribunals" from the Jerusalem Post (Sun. Dec. 31, 1995 by Sue Fishkoff). It is about pressures on Israel to comply with international tribunals set up by the UN Security Council to prosecute war crimes in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. The reasons for Israel to get involved are based on the connection of the Jewish history and link to genocide - and the responsibility and investment in fighting it:

"It's unlikely that any witnesses or suspects are in Israel, but Israel and the Jewish people have a special reason for wanting to align themselves with international tribunals charging people with genocide," Goldstone [South African Supreme Court justice and chief prosecutor for both tribunals] said.

The notion of "never again" and the responsibility of at least reiterating that message, is implicated in this comment. In this case there was a failure to prevent genocide and Israel is being called upon to help bring the Rwandan genocide to light and to justice.

This notion of responsibility is complicated by the second article I read, "Whose Fight Is It" from the New York Times (Sun. May 22, 1994 by Brian Urquhart) which uses the situation in Rwanda to question the role and responsibility of the UN and its member states. The article is a general critique of the UN and its problem of ineffectiveness, though Urquhart pointedly asks: "What is the responsibility of United Nations members for disasters like Rwanda and Bosnia that do not directly affect their national security and other interests? In fact, is there an international responsibility that arises from membership in the U.N.?"

This is something Malkki brings up in the first chapter of Purity and Exile, in noting the general silence in the media about the 1972 massacres in Burundi, commenting "One frequent response, when it was not silence, was to express shock at what was happening while noting that it would be 'improper' to interfere in the internal affairs of a sovereign state," especially internal affairs portrayed as "tribal bloodshed," "civil war," and "peasant uprising[s]" (35). The ways in which the Burundi massacres were classified in the media and by other nation-states allowed a shrugging off of responsibility, one that we continued to see in the UN and its member states' inaction during the Rwandan genocide. How an event is defined clearly has implications about who is responsible and in what capacity. The killings in Rwanda being named a genocide created a notion of Israeli responsibility in participating in war tribunals. Sadly, though not surprisingly, that was a responsiblity invoked in the wake of the killings. The real question is of a responsibility to step in and try to prevent killing while it is happening. Who can it be put upon?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Film Reflecting on History

The Rwandan Genocide has been at the center of controversy and debate for many years. Based on the readings from the newspapers articles I found it interesting that many Journalists compared the genocide in Rwanda to the Holocaust. Nonetheless, it makes me question why both of these historical events are compared to each other. The Holocaust clearly made a significant impact throughout the world. Throughout the past decades, the Holocaust has been highly publicized in books, documentaries, and even in Hollywood films. On the other hand, the Rwandan Genocide has not been publicized as much.

To be honest I knew very little information about the Rwandan genocide until this assignment. The only knowledge that I had of the Rwandan genocide was based on the major motion film called, “Hotel Rwanda.” Nonetheless, I never really thought to compare the Rwandan genocide with the Holocaust. Many film critics called the film Hotel Rwanda, “An African Schindler’s list.” This brings up the interesting combination of Historical events and Hollywood. In addition, it raises the question of authenticity within these historical films, and does it provide justice for the survivors in anyway?

Overall, it becomes a question of how history is replicated in today’s Hollywood films. In class we discussed about how some Holocaust survivors were deeply offended of a film/ show that aired on H.B.O. I believe film makers, and the actors have a great responsibly to the “survivors of the struggle” when recreating these historical events on to the big screen. In conclusion, both the Holocaust and the Rwandan Genocide are two separate historical events, and yet the Rwandan Genocide has not received the credit for its significance in its place in history.

Gacaca and the Nuremberg Trials

The article I chose was: In this article "Kanombe Journal; After the Horror, Truth and Some Healing, Maybe", by Marc Lacey, the focus is on gacaca, which means " justice on the grass in the Kinyarwanda language"(Lacey).

The gacaca is a trial with judges to deal out justice. "It is a process Rwandans have long used to handle petty grievances between neighbors."(Lacey). After the 1994 killings in Rwanda, it is now being used "the cases of 100,000 people charged with various offenses related to the 1994 killing frenzy"(Lacey). Most of these trials are among peers and those local to the area, with a focus is on "the everyday Hutu who brandished hoes and machetes and, following the orders of others, hacked away at their Central African countrymen". People are accusing thier neighbors and these crimes, rather than accusations from Tutsi against the Hutu.

In this article, I saw a connection with the Nuremberg Trials. Both cases involve mass killing and genocide, and the justice that was sought after those events. A major difference between the two trials is that the gacaca is a local trial, and the Nuremberg Trials involved people from many different nations. Although World War II involved more than one country, unlike the 1994 killings in Rwanda, it was not considered for Germans to put fellow Germans on trial without outside influence. Adolf Eichmann said that "It was unthinkable that I would not follow orders." I found this to be similar to a quote at the end of the article, where an inmate said "I was not a bad person but the situation I was in made me bad." Many Nazi supporters claimed that they were just following orders and what everyone else was doing. The inmate is also blaming something else for the killing he had committed. Many people were killing in 1994, and during World War II, but there is nothing to suggest that those same wouldn't be murderers if their lives and situations were different. They may of chose to live different lives, or they may of chose the same actions.

I also saw a connection to Traces of the Trade and Hidden Sorrows with the questions of reprarations they both brought up. Reprarations, justice, and education can be closely related. ''We're not just punishing people,'' Mr. Mucyo said in an interview. ''We're educating them." (Lacey). Some people have said that reprarations are about seeking justice for actions of ancestors and educating the public about the economic effects slavery had. the gacaca is not just a trial, it is a way for people to both deal with, understand, and come clean about the trajedies of 1994.

Was it worth not getting involved with Rwanda?

Understanding now, what had happened in Rwanda about 15 years ago, strikes an interest in many people to find
out why didn't the US get involved? Why didn't the UN take their troops out?
After reading this article by the NY times in 1994 about 2 weeks, i believe, after the genocide started, there
are many interesting points that help you understand why the UN and the US did not get involved. For instance
about 18 US troops were killed in Somalia, when the US was trying to "save" the country. So with the devastation and
the memory of the awful instance in Somalia the US was hesitant because they did not want the same thing to happen
in Rwanda. One thing the article mentions is about Tribal Hatred, "Although it has not been exactly articulated this way, no member of the United Nations with an army strong enough to make a difference is willing to risk the lives of its troops for a failed central African nation-state with a centuries-old history of tribal warfare and deep distrust of outside intervention." There are a couple of interesting words that are used in this sentence... "Failed central African nation-state" and "Centuries-old of tribal warfare". The reason these two phrases irritate me is because not only is this an African state that is failed and why should we save it, it is also a victim of tribal hatred. So when we look at Africa there is a reoccurring  focus on "Savagery" and "tribes", people not being civilized. But when you look further into the detail about what actually happened you will see that these stereo types are fictionalized and only used by the US and the UN, so they did not have to participate in helping those who were being killed in Rwanda for fear they will loose a lot of soldiers. So naming it tribal warfare on their part actually changes the need to intervene. So if they decided to declare the Rwandan disaster a Genocide, the troops would be rolling in, but  because they hesitated, they did not have to send in the troops. 
When you think about it, and when you learn the other side of the story, its hard to comprehend why we have this image and why we believe in these fairy tales about places we know little about. Its sad and it makes Americans and Europeans seem clueless to what is really going on in the world.  

Dangerous Labels

The information in this article was taken from The New York Times archive on the political situation of Rwanda in 1990.

In October 1990, a group of Tutsi from Uganda, thousands strong, stormed into Rwanda attempting to overthrow the Hutu-dominated government. These Tutsi were living in exile in Uganda, having escaped Rwanda after a long period of persecution at the hands of the Hutu decades earlier.

Even though the articles from this time acknowledge that the Tutsi of Uganda were once legitimate Rwandans, they are referred to as “rebels” and “invaders,” casting them in a very negative light and seemingly taking the side of the Hutu in Rwanda. Here are the articles:

As we have discussed in class, the application of a label to a group of people can greatly influence the way they are perceived in the public sphere. Limiting a description of a people to a simple definition causes them to be seen as only belonging to that definition, having no other significant qualities. The application of a term like “invader” to these Tutsi can cause people to forget that they are refugees of Rwanda, forced out decades ago by the Hutu of the area. When this article was released, especially to a population of Americans nowhere near the strife, many must have immediately taken a negative view of the Tutsi of the area, attributing no land status to them at all. Although the Tutsi did come into Rwanda with seemingly violent intentions, their refugee status was still glossed over by The Times, and their description as being “invaders” to Rwanda is forgetful of their roots in the country, neglecting the violent acts done to their people that forced many of them into Uganda.

If groups are described as being of a certain caliber or quality, they will be remembered as such. These two articles suggest that the press took the side of the Rwandan Hutu without even considering their history with the Tutsi, and their opinion was put on display for millions of readers across the globe, prompting them to view the situation as The Times did. Even credible news sources, major avenues by which we keep our memory, have the potential to lead us astray.

8This is just something interesting I noticed:

The above is a link to an article that, in the midst of its story, takes time to say "Some Hutu, a shorter people than the tall Tutsi, contend that the new transitional Government is too conciliatory toward the Tutsi." The fact that the Hutu are shorter than the Tutsi has nothing to do with the story in the least. In other articles a similar tactic was undertaken. Also, in Purity and Exile, the Hutu are very intent on noting the physical differences between them and the Tutsi. I guess the writers of the articles must have picked up on the importance of the defining characteristics between the Hutu and the Tutsi, at least enough to describe the difference completely out of context.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Historical Amnesia in the American South

In Response to James Perry’s The Living Consequences
In this entry, James acknowledges the tendency of Americans to downplay or even ignore the effects of the effects of the hundreds of years of slavery in America. The difference between those memories of the North and the South is distinct in the fact that, with the exception of Traces of the Trade, Northern based slavery is not the focus of many individuals. Widespread Southern plantation slavery has been mutated from the horrific forced labor it was, to a less-offensive period of friendly servitude more along the lines of the “Glory days”. This image of the beautiful South is preserved by naivety toward slavery, as an acknowledgement would mar the region’s celebrated past. The Charleston Museum’s initiative to create such an exhibit is the first step toward presenting and accepting the South’s former culture.
I applaud their actions and support their desire to inform the general public in lieu of ignoring the era as it has been in the past. Much like Katrina Browne’s work, slavery education needs to start somewhere—and what better place than the country’s oldest museum.
In James' blog, he posts an article about the Armenian genocide and historical amnesia. I think historical amnesia is an interesting term, especially when we apply it to our discussion of slavery in class. Someone in class mentioned how when we learned about slavery in elementary school, we were basically taught that the North were the good guys, and the South were the bad guys. Seeing slavery in simple black and white terms just doesn't work. James said that this was one of the main themes of Traces of the Trade, and I am inclined to agree, because it was one of the things that struck me the most.
Like the DeWolf family, I really wasn't aware of the extent of the North's role in the slave trade. Because of what I learned in school, I figured the bulk of the slave trade took place in the South, and that the North was a place full of Quakers and Underground Railroad stops. I have to question why I was taught that this was true. Is it just easier to explain slavery in terms like this? Did the North originally not want to admit to their role in the slave trade and thus their true role was never discussed, even up to today? These questions are something I have to think about, and I wonder if elementary school curriculums will ever be change to reflect a more accurate picture of slave trade

Battle Star Galactica, and the U.N.

James Olmos' and his non-racist approach is admirable. It also makes me want to watch the show battle star galatica all the more. I do disagree with him at one point. There is such things as a latino race, asian race, and etc. Although biologically the differences between each race, and using race as a cultural determinant is racist, it doesn't constitute the non-existance of race. Race is a social construct and the way individuals use race to develop a racist discourse among one another has a terrible reality. James' is well intended but in order for his intentions to be realized. He has to come to terms that it is a socially constructed ideology that pervades even in our times, and expose people's actions and thoughts that are fueled by racist ideologies. Saying that race doesn't exist, is simply masking what people are really doing and saying.

At the end of his speech, where he discusses how caucasians created this idea of race as a cultural determinant in order to subdue and conquer other races, had me thinking that history of racism is a vital part of eliminating racism altogether. As we saw in traces of the trade, the effects of history, is possibly right infront of us and we simply ignore it or don't realize it. In the present, what we can learn from the past should be racism in any form is wrong, and the consequences of being racist is profound. Racism may take on other forms currently but the results are still the same; therefore, the message of history is still the same. It is my hope, however, that in our generation we as society as a whole, can come to grips with this issue and use the power that history has to never let itself be repeated.

Response to Perry's About His Blog

After looking through Jame's blog I was a little confused. It all seems to be news blurbs on recent race developments. Most of the posts seemed rather clinical. I suppose my confusion stems from a dissonance between what I was expecting and what Perry actually writes about rather than my inability to understand the material. I felt that if he was so affected by his journey, enough to maintain a blog dealing with race, that there would be more feelings involved. Instead, it is a running list of the state of race relations in the US.

I don't have much to comment on. Many of the posts are short and purely informational. One thing I would like to see if I were to follow his blog would be his connections to the material. Though the purpose of his blog is stated, it is unclear. I would like him to address why he feels running this blog is important. I don't like the lack of personal experiences in his blog. To me, a blog is a journal of sorts. While it can be used as a media source, I feel it has the most impact when people's reactions and thoughts are recorded. For a few of the posts that I look over, Perry did not give his personal opinion of what he was writing about. I assume that he agrees with the items he is posting, but I cannot be sure. I am left questioning how effective his blog is. I don't know its purpose. While I feel that any sort of exposure of issues is good for the larger public, I wonder how much influence his blog has among those who do not already have reason to be there.

Ultimately, I was hoping to find out why Perry feels this is an effective or appropriate outlet following his experiences seen in Traces of the Trade. I did not and I cannot immediately see these answers in any of his more recent posts. He never says why he felt a blog was a step in the right direction. The link to the post I am referring to in embedded in the title of my post.

Traces of the Trade and it's Results

(Sorry for the delay, forgot all about posting last week's til I went to post this weeks)

Watching Traces of the Trade sparks mixed feelings for me. Yes, the slave trade was a horrible trade. However, for all intents and purposes, its been over for almost 100 years. Of course, there is still racism, but this is a seperate issue in my mind. Racism is something horrible that still goes on today, and still affects people. No one alive today has truly suffered from it, nor gained from it(except possibly some inherited money). But the idea of reparations, to me at least, is a bit ludicrous. It's people who haven't committed a crime paying victims for a pain they (essentially) have not suffered. There are no more people who were alive to be slaves, just as there are no people alive who were slaves.

The anger people still feel about it is slightly confusing, as illustrated by what happened to me. A friend of mine was horribly angry at all white people, insisting his ancestors had been enslaved and their (and his) live ruined because of it. Then, one day, he came to me with a sheepish apology. He had learned his family had freely immigrated to America, not forced over as slaves. This highlights one of the major problems with reparations. How do we determine who gets money? With the lack of records of slaves, will it really be possible to trace out who is descended from slaves and who isn't?

The idea of an apology is still a bit strange. This time, it's people who haven't committed crimes accepting responsibility for the suffering of people who haven't been victimized. Yes, they may be in a rough position in life, but this is more due to racism, and racism is what needs to be addressed and confronted. Bringing slavery back up is essentially avoiding what should be the main issue.

Reparations for something that happened hundreds of years ago is a very tricky subject. If accepted, reparations could have all sorts of other consequences. Could the descendants of a murder victim sue the murderer's ancestors 100, or even 200 years later? Yes, the two cases are drastically different, but the basic premise behind them is the same.

This is not to say I don't understand the troubles the DeWolf's face. They are much more closely linked to slavery. But for the majority of people, there might be no connection at all. Who's to say my ancestors considered slavery immoral and didn't own any? Or that they ran a "stop" on the underground railroad?

Slavery was indeed a terrible thing, but it is one that(for the most part) has been "defeated" throughout the world. I think people need to stop arguing about an issue of the past, and focus more on the issue of the present, racism.

Blog 2 (Racism Conference)

The debate over the UN Conference on racism is a bit confusing to me. With so little of the actual wording of the document released, it's hard to understand exactly why countries are boycotting the conference. All we hear are vague comments about "unacceptable references" to things like Israel and Palestine, reparations, and religious defamation.

When it comes to religious defamation, what exactly is this doing in a conference on racism? And what exactly do they mean by defamation? To some, religious defamation is not only insulting a religion, but also denying that it is true. If this is included, is it really the place of the UN to decide what religion is "right"? On the other hand, if they mean simply insulting a religion, this is an entirely seperate topic and does not belong in a conversation about racism. Race and religion are two seperate things.

I'm not surprised in the slightest that countries would be upset about reparations, especially the US. Our country has always been slow to, if they ever even do, admit they did something wrong. This extends beyond slavery - internment camps for Japanese citizens in WW2 for example. The wrongs committed by our country are quietly swept under the rug, and other things talked about instead. Forgot about what we did to our own citizens - we liberated the death camps!!! This sort of attitude is chronic in this country - ignore the wrong, focus on the good.

The same goes for the talk of Israel and Palestine, though without the actual language it is hard to figure out why. I would guess that the language did not describe Israel as blameless and Palestine as guilty, and that is why it was rejected. Several countries, including this one, have long turned a blind eye to wrongs committed by Israel. To suggest anything other than Palestine is the aggressor and Israel is blameless is always rejected by most of the Western world. (Of course, any suggestion that Palestine is not blameless is generally rejected by the Muslim world) What really needs to happen to achieve peace is for both sides to suck it up and admit guilt. Neither is blameless.

In short, I think the reasons for boycotting the conference come down to political pandering and nothing more. The elimination of racism is too important a task to let petty political squabbles interfere. But then again, this country has never let something like the good of all get in the way of politics, so why be surprised that it does now?

Races and Faces

I visited and was immediately drawn into the frequently updated entries that deal with modern events. The article I chose was "Facial recognition and “implicit racial bias”"( I chose this article because of a psychology class I had taken where we talked about this subject. Although we talked about a different study in that class, I think this is an interesting subject that does not get a great deal of attention. The study that he talks about is a study about "individual condition" and "categorization condition", while also using ALPS (“Affective Lexical Priming Score”).

He comes to a couple of conclusions about whether the study was really measuring subconscious racial bias. He suggests that the study might measure a person's ability to differentiate between people of different races. I agree with his conclusions and can see how my own background supports his conclusions. He says some of the factors that might influence their test scores are "their demographic characteristics and life experiences... racial diversity in one’s environment, especially as a child." I am of a mixed race, and I do find it easier to distinguish Asian people and white people than other races. Growing up in my town, there were very little African Americans, a few Native Americans, and practically no Hispanic people. My town was mainly white with a small population of Asians. I first started to experience wide scale diversity in college, and not before then. The other conclusion he comes to is that "tests of “implicit racial bias” may be largely measuring perceptual mechanisms... which are quite distinct from prejudice, subconscious or otherwise." I think the tests are not measuring "implicit racial bias", but how you see people of different races in a categorical sense. If you lack large scale exposure to a certain race, I think it is understandable that you will perceive them differently than other races which you were exposed to more.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Brown's Slave-Trade Memorial

This post, "Brown University to Erect Slave-Trade Memorial," from The Living Consequences interested me because it relates so directly to Traces of the Trade and which is probably the result of efforts such as those made by the DeWolf descendants, including James with this blog. I was shocked to read that "James D’Wolf and his family sent out a thousand slaving voyages, more than half of those sent out from the entire country, and brought more than 110,000 enslaved Africans to the New World", a statistic of which I was not at all aware. It definitely shakes up the popular notion that slavery and the slave trade were ways of the South (and limited mostly to the South).

It seems very important that Brown is responding to recommendations from the 2006 report by the Committee on Slavery and Justice, which seeks to understand and spread information about the university's historical involvement with the slave trade. The other reccommendations, which appear to focus mainly on education initiatives both within the university and in the greater community. That such a prominent university would designate time and money to this endeavor is important.

We have not talked too much about memorials in our class, but they stand as real, physical objects symbolizing and evoking our memory and devotion to "never forget." To memorialize something is also to bring it permanently into the public sphere, a process that the DeWolf family was beginning to engage in by the end of Traces of the Trade, and which James is continuing through his blog. Memorials, as generally large, public structures, force us to look and remember. Of course, without also providing education, the public may never fully understand Rhode Island's slave-trade involvement, however, it seems that is the intent of the educational initiatives that accompany the reccommendation for the memorial.

Something else that interested me was the Committee's reccommendation for "a memorial to honor Native American heritage."I think it is wonderful that a committee on slavery and justice would extend its arms to the plight of Native Americans in this country. The violent dislocation, enslavement, and genocide that was inflicted on Native Americans was and (perhaps maybe in its contemporary manifestations) still is vastly unacknowledged in the public's collective understanding. Bringing those narratives to light through memorialization is just as important. I was surprised but deeply appreciative that the Committee recognized the two injustices on the same level, because I think they often are not.