This class has greatly broadened my understanding of racial classifications. While we may deny any intrinsic value that a race has on the grounds that race is a constructed idea, I am still amazed at the diversity of racial identities that have developed and the dynamic ways in which they interact. On an individual level, in the classroom for example, it is easy to acknowledge one another’s humanity. It disgusts me to think about one person enslaving another, but the reality is that this way common practice not so long ago. Fanon made me realize that I can never understand what it is like for the colonized living under a colonizer. This class has taught me just how privileged I am. This semester I also took Dr Johnson’s Human Rights class, and there is a lot of overlap. We discussed how often times the people whose human rights are being violated often receive very little recognition from the government. Race is an underlying factor, and I think many people still harbor subliminal racist tendencies. On the surface racial relations seem to be greatly improving. We’ve made great strides since the civil rights movement.
Still, many African Americans remain in poverty, a situation very difficult to overcome no matter how hard one works. Instead of sympathy, these people often elicit negative racial stereotypes—welfare checks, laziness, and poor education. These traits do not characterize a race; they are signs of poverty and hopelessness. Though free in theory, these people are materially oppressed and are forced to work lousy jobs for low pay because these are the only openings available to them. As soon as I figure out how to upload it, I will post the documentary Ryley Erhardt and I shot. In it we interview a variety of characters, from street people, to restaurant personnel, to public safety officers. Talking to them made me realize that race still plays a large role in Memphis. I was also amazed to see how different people’s lives can be. In our documentary, a lawyer says that there is a difference between the real homeless and people who just panhandle. There may be some cases in which a panhandler could be doing something more productive with his life, but it is my opinion that if he knew an honest way to make a substantially greater amount of money, he would do it. For many of these people, they do not have the option to help themselves.
Its been a really great semester and I have learned a ton. Thanks everyone, and have a great summer and life!