Tag Archives: race

Inequality, Culture and Race

Over the last week or so, we have been exploring data, personal stories and more concerning socioeconomic status in a diverse American society.  There are many ways we’ve done this, and many take-aways from the data, encouraging great discussion in class.  First, we had to create a context for class stratification in American society as well as a historical context.  We also had to take a look a common assumptions and misconceptions as compared to data.  Then we had to determine what factors we were going to evaluate: race, gender, class, etc.  Here are a couple of the resources we’ve used:

In order to personalize the story and place it in the context of data, we also examined the lives of four people who all work, but have great difficulty in getting by from day to day.   That’s primarily because they are low wage workers.  The documentary is called, ‘Waging a Living’ by POV on PBS.  We saw how income has changed in the last 30-40  years when adjusted for inflation as well as how jobs, single parent families, divorce, health care, and education impacts an individual’s class status.  This isn’t equal across different groups in America either.

Once we looked at that data, I introduced Holly Sklar’s ‘Imagine a Country’ essay.  Many of the students were shocked and awed by the data while others found justifications for preconceived notions about diverse living conditions in America.  I originally found the essay in Paula Rothenberg’s ‘Race, Gender and Class in the United States’.  The piece is very provocative and almost always begins great discussion on economic justice as well as free market capitalism.

Finally, we explored the issues of health care and inequality in America.  The website Unnatural Causes became a central resource for us in exploring these connections.  The site contains video clips, interactive features, health care data, international comparisons and more.



Imperialism: American Style!

This week we’ve been learning about imperialism – the territorial expansion of the US over other countries and peoples in order to establish colonies to benefit the host country.  Where?  Hawaii, Puerto Rico, the Philippines and Cuba all were occupied by US troops at the end of the 1890’s.  There was fever in the air… Look at the words of a Washington Post editorial back then:

A new consciousness seems to have come upon us — the consciousness of strength — and with it a new appetite, the yearning to show our strength. . . . Ambition, interest, land hunger, pride, the mere joy of fighting, whatever it may be, we are animated by a new sensation. We are face to face with a strange destiny. The taste of Empire is in the mouth of the people even as the taste of blood in the jungle. . . .

Howard Zinn writes about it in his People’s History of the United States in the chapter, The Empire and the People.  In it, he talks about the deire to expand and protect American businesses, as well as the impact of a foreign war being fought in part by African American soldiers.  There was a double standard here.  Cultural superiority was also not only in the air, it was reinforced by law and promoted by the military.  Remember the episode from a PBS documentary called, Race: The Power of an Illusion, tells the story of how racism and the Spanish American War changed the public perception of America’s role overseas.  This was the beginning of the ‘White Man’s Burden’.

PBS also produced another powerful documentary on the Spanish American War.  Still, we wonder about the nature or potential for US imperialism today, as well as its impact back then.  There’s so much to learn about.

Here’s a copy of the PowerPoint notes:

Here’s the list of websites to review:

Website Reviews
1.        http://www.pbs.org/crucible/ PBS Spanish American War is a very comprehensive website exploring all aspects of this important war.
2.        http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/hawaii/ This website accompanies a documentary on how American businessmen and military got Hawaii.
3.        http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Crete/9782/ The Philippine-American War is one of the least known US conflicts.  This site explores it.
4.        http://www.time.com/time/time100/leaders/profile/troosevelt.html Time 100 T. Roosevelt is a website that explores the life of TR.
5.        http://www.destination360.com/central-america/panama/panama-canal-history.php This website discusses the building of the Panama Canal
6.        http://alt.tnt.tv/movies/tntoriginals/roughriders/jour.home.html This website is an interactive account of Yellow Journalism in newspapers
7.        http://www.topuertorico.org/history5.shtml This website is a History of Puerto Rico from 1900 to the present, including the US acquisition
8.        http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1899antiimp.html Anti-Imperialist League Platform is the position of Americans against imperialism
9.        http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/sawhtml/sawhome.html Spanish American War in Motion Pictures is a Library of Congress website.
10.     http://mckinleydeath.com/ This website is a description of the McKinley Assassination, with over 140 documents, images, movies and more.