J.R.’s Zaphne Blog News for 07-24-2018

How the racial caste system got restored

Michelle Alexander’s book, The New Jim Crow, is a must-read for anyone trying to come to grips with the explosive growth of America’s prison population in the past three decades-and how this growth relates to the racial disparity in imprisonment. Alexander describes how the two prior systems of racial control, slavery and Jim Crow, functioned to create a racial underclass. Just as the white elite had successfully driven a wedge between poor whites and blacks following Bacon’s Rebellion by creating the institution of black slavery, another racial caste system was emerging nearly two centuries later, in part due to efforts by white elites to decimate a multiracial alliance of poor people. The bulk of The New Jim Crow is an account of how this new system of racial control has been constructed. Often the racial biases in these decisions are less the work of outright bigotry than unconscious racial stereotypes, which, as noted, have been widely promoted by politicians and the media. 

As Alexander documents, a series of Supreme Court rulings have effectively shut the courthouse doors to claims of racial bias in the criminal justice system. The system of mass incarceration is now, for all practical purposes, thoroughly immunized from claims of racial bias. Alexander goes on to show how this system of racial control operates beyond the prison cell as the criminal label follows millions of people of color for the rest of their lives. This officially colorblind system goes a long way in explaining how we have come to this moment in which a Black president can oversee a system that locks up millions of Black men. If the movement that emerges to challenge mass incarceration fails to confront squarely the critical role of race in the basic structure of society, and if it fails to cultivate an ethic of genuine care, compassion, and concern for every human being-of every class, race, and nationality-within our nation’s borders, the collapse of mass incarceration will not mean the death of racial caste in America. 

Inevitably a new system of racialized social control will emerge-one that we cannot foresee just as the current system of mass incarceration was not predicted by anyone thirty years ago. No task is more urgent for racial justice advocates today than ensuring that America’s current racial caste system is its last. 

Keywords: [“racial”,”system”,”drug”]
Source: https://isreview.org/issue/73/how-racial-caste-system-got-restored

SparkNotes: Great Expectations: Themes

The moral theme of Great Expectations is quite simple: affection, loyalty, and conscience are more important than social advancement, wealth, and class. Dickens establishes the theme and shows Pip learning this lesson, largely by exploring ideas of ambition and self-improvement-ideas that quickly become both the thematic center of the novel and the psychological mechanism that encourages much of Pip’s development. At heart, Pip is an idealist; whenever he can conceive of something that is better than what he already has, he immediately desires to obtain the improvement. Ambition and self-improvement take three forms in Great Expectations-moral, social, and educational; these motivate Pip’s best and his worst behavior throughout the novel. Significantly, Pip’s life as a gentleman is no more satisfying-and certainly no more moral-than his previous life as a blacksmith’s apprentice. 

Ultimately, through the examples of Joe, Biddy, and Magwitch, Pip learns that social and educational improvement are irrelevant to one’s real worth and that conscience and affection are to be valued above erudition and social standing. Throughout Great Expectations, Dickens explores the class system of Victorian England, ranging from the most wretched criminals to the poor peasants of the marsh country to the middle class to the very rich. From the handcuffs Joe mends at the smithy to the gallows at the prison in London, the imagery of crime and criminal justice pervades the book, becoming an important symbol of Pip’s inner struggle to reconcile his own inner moral conscience with the institutional justice system. In general, just as social class becomes a superficial standard of value that Pip must learn to look beyond in finding a better way to live his life, the external trappings of the criminal justice system become a superficial standard of morality that Pip must learn to look beyond to trust his inner conscience. Magwitch frightens Pip at first simply because he is a convict, and Pip feels guilty for helping him because he is afraid of the police. 

By the end of the book Pip has discovered Magwitch’s inner nobility, and is able to disregard his external status as a criminal. As Pip has learned to trust his conscience and to value Magwitch’s inner character, he has replaced an external standard of value with an internal one. 

Keywords: [“Pip”,”social”,”class”]
Source: http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/greatex/themes

Normalizing Male Dominance: Gender Representation in 2012 Films

Our analysis looks at films by genres, with some concluding remarks about gender roles and examples of male and female characters that were less objectified and represented gender roles that were more human or outside of the narrow gender roles of most films. Looking at the 53 films in the category of gender representation, we see that the majority of characters were male, and only 7 were female. Women are constantly being misrepresented in these films, shown for purposes of objectification, support of the male characters, and mostly as love interests that drive the male characters. In President Evil and Underworld, the lead females characters are strong and confident, but one is a vampire who is looking for her male partner and the lead female character in Resident Evil is often sexualized by the way she is dressed. We see animated film gender stereotypes here, a young boy being the main character, his dog being male, his role model in the film being a the male science teacher, his mother being overly protective and the villain, of sorts, being the cranky male neighbor/mayor of the town. 

The first three characters that appear on screen are male characters. The main male character Ted, voiced by Zac Efron, lives with his mom and grandmother and does not have a father figure, which is interesting, since in a large number of children films, the maternal character is missing. In Wreck-It Ralph, the relationships between male and female characters are portrayed as much more of a partnership than we see in many other movies, where one, mostly male, character is dominating another, usually female, character. There is the opportunity for the movie to have a stereotypical lesbian character, and it seems like they will head down that path with the character of Sergeant Calhoun; however, she works closely with another male character, Felix and the two become romantically involved. It is a heartwarming film that challenges some gender roles, but in the end Amy Adams character finds another male love interest and plays the role of the female fixer in a dysfunctional family. 

In The Five Year Engagement we see a bit of gender parity, the movie focusing equally on the main male and female characters. In the end, they do switch traditional gender roles, and the main female character proposes to the main male character. 

Keywords: [“character”,”film”,”male”]
Source: https://griid.org/2013/02/12/normalizing-male-dominance-gender…

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