Thursday, December 16, 2010

Words of Wisdom?

On Tuesday, I went to get our car's oil changed. I really like the place that I go, because they give customers free soda, and put a flower on the dashboard for all the women who take their cars there.

While I was waiting, I saw that they had a poster with various motivational quotes on it. And I love me a good motivational quote, so I went over to check them out. Nothing was really jumping out at me until I saw this one:

Never be haughty to the humble. Never be humble to the haughty.

I thought to myself "Oooh, I like that one."

Then I looked down and saw who said it:

Jefferson Davis

Then I thought to myself, "Jefferson Davis?!?"

For those of you not on a big U.S. history tip, Jefferson Davis was the President of the Confederacy during the Civil War.

You know, the side that didn't win.

So anyway, I see that Jefferson Davis wrote the quote, and something very interesting happened. I found myself questioning whether I really liked it as much as I thought I had thirty seconds earlier.

Part of me was saying, "Well what are you supposed to be to the haughty? Haughty back? That's not good. Maybe humble is the best thing to be at all times. But you don't want people to push you around, so maybe it just means stand up for yourself (nicely, of course.) What the hell is this poster company thinking putting a quote from a Confederate leader on their freakin' poster?! Are they trying to send some kind of subliminal message?"

and so on.

But I honestly couldn't say (and still can't,) if my new found questioning of the quote came more from its message, or from its messenger.

Which leads me to this post: How do we acknowledge good things that are done by people that do bad things, and vice versa? Should we celebrate them? Act like they never happened? Or acknowledge that all people make mistakes and no one person is all good or all bad? Does it matter how bad the bad stuff was? Or how good the good stuff?

I was in a really crappy diversity training once that talked about a Neo-Nazi who found a cure for AIDS--I think we were supposed to decide if he should live or die (it was a long time ago, I don't remember all the specifics.)

Besides the fact that I don't think a Neo-Nazi is going to devote his research efforts to finding a cure for that particular disease, it does raise an interesting question. Would this fictitious person deserve to win the Nobel Prize?

Margaret Sanger (founder of Planned Parenthood ,) was a proponent of eugenics, and gave speeches to the Ku Klux Klan. How should this knowledge influence our view of her and her many accomplishments? Hamas kills people who are riding buses and eating pizza; they also give food and healthcare to people in need--how do we reconcile these two pieces of information?

My free flower is on a vase on our mantle. I wonder if I'll have come to any conclusions about Mr. Davis, or any of these other questions by the time its petals have fallen off. I am also really curious to hear what you all think about the issues I've raised--so leave me a comment.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

The more you know...

There are some things that I want to learn more about when it comes to race and inequality. They are (in no particular order,)

The 70's. I know a good amount about the civil rights movement of the 50's and 60's, but what happened in the 70's? I know the Black Power movement started gaining steam, but I'd like more details.

School integration/Busing. How did that work? How long did it go on? Why did it stop?

The War on Poverty.

The history of Government Housing/Housing Projects. Is it universal that the people that live in them think they suck? If so, what are the reasons that they think contribute to their suckiness? If not, what separates a good one from a bad one?

The history of the police in the U.S.

Affirmative Action. What is it? What isn't it?

The history of Homelessness in the U.S.

Health care. How did people pay for health insurance/care before the 1980's?

Back to the 60's snd 70's. I feel like I heard about people taking over administration buildings of Universities and having lists of demands. What were on these lists? And prison riots too (Attica.) What was on the prisoners lists of demands?

I'm sure there are more, but that's all I can think of for now. What are some things that you'd like to know more about re: race and inequality? Have you read any books that cover one or more of these topics that you'd like to recommend?