Tag Archives: ReThink History

“American” dreams really do come true?

Owning your own home was a trend perpetuated by Nixon during his time in office, around the ‘white flight’ and ‘urban sprawl’ era around the 1950s and ’60s. This dream of homeownership was something to be proud of, and has encouraged further enchantment of the purchase, so much as to set a status quo of bigger and shinier as ‘better’. In reality, this may not be the case. Buying a bigger home comes with more household cleaning and maintenance or repair tasks, as well as higher property taxes and insurance rates.

Though, the greatest form of generational wealth in the US comes from real estate; while a high effect of generational poverty also correlates with the status of ‘renter’. After WWII, soldiers were given GI Bills, and thus allowed to put that towards houses, many of which may still be passed down in the family today. But, these policies were not as great as they seemed, for only white soldiers were given the GI Bills; this racial inequality persists today.

Renting may not be all bad though, because it means you have the freedom to move, and live a nomadic life, if you please. Our generation, X, has actually been called the nomadic generation, because many of us do not recognize or fulfill this ‘dream’ any longer. Rather, in our globalized society we have traveled and learned of other cultures. We dream of building new lives elsewhere. Often, those of us who can afford a ‘higher’ education end up falling into more perilous financial situations at future times when paying back our student debt. In the end though, we recognize the benefits of habitual freedom. Growing up our generation witnessed the crash of an entire, obviously unstable, economic system where, in the past decade, many families lost their homes; income inequality growing deeper and deeper. We were witnesses of this forced migration into a nomadic culture immersed in a very idealized, static society.

What does this mean then…”American” dreams really do come true? I’ll sit this one out…
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Don’t Worry About the Rest: ReThinking Heroism

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Thor: The Dark World 2013

Since before written language, humans have been basking in the residual glory of the hero archetype. The hero model of storytelling has been used across cultures from Greek mythology, to Roman kings, to religious characters depicted in Christianity.
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Although the standard hero has evolved quite a bit over time, the core elements are still intact. A hero is self-sacrificing, 100% independent and courageous in the face of adversity. He, yes he, is predisposed to rescue the morally (and often physically) inferior (either a woman or common folk) and the less fortunate.
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Nowadays, heroism appears to be a bit more removed from our world and reserved only for fantasy genre books or films. Prime examples are pictured: Thor and the Greek God, Hercules, if you’re into Disney. In reality, the hero worldview is just as culturally ingrained as it was 3000+ years ago.
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Heros of recent history may not be as glamorous as kings or gods, but in many ways we still treat them as such. We use the same Imagestorytelling technique in high school history class as ancient kings used to selectively glorify and filter their legacy. They are framed as objective recounts, yet are both intentionally and subconsciously restricted.
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One common example is Abraham Lincoln, the designated face of the Civil War. Particularly in grade school, a huge emphasis is placed on his moral righteousness (Honest Abe) and the abolishment of slavery is portrayed as solely his valiant act of joostice – involuntary reference sorry – as if others we’re joost watching from the bleachers. And of course everyone couldn’t be fully credited. The point is that we tend to choose a single man to mark the event and promote him to no end while skimming over the unpleasant details.
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The consequences of hero-centered storytelling are particularly evident in the story of Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The traditional story is inaccurate for a number of reasons and not surprisingly is framed around the memorable, but limited hero model.
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I don’t doubt that Ms. Parks was daring, ruthlessly moral and whatever else makes a hero; still, it doesn’t mean that she was not part of an existing network and plan. The inverse of a hero is the community, which has been all but screened out of history.
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Sure they can…as long as there are other around to help out

The famous bus incident is portrayed as the first even though others, herself included, had already refused to give up their seats in the past. Likewise, those who made her training possible, prepared her for that moment, were already organizing in the community and setting the essential groundwork for the Civil Rights Movement are referred to as bandwagon supporters, if mentioned at all.

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So, why does this matter? Omitting the social context from the story undermines the role of the black community along with the reason the act was ultimately successful. After all, it would be too risky for those in power to publicize the actions that actually lead to social change and shifts in power. Instead, students know Ms.Parks as a admirable, but unrelatable, special case who by sheer luck landed in the perfect circumstances.
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As Herbert Spencer put it “You must admit that the genesis of the great man depends on the long series of complex influences which has produced the race in which he appears, and the social state into which that race has slowly grown….Before he can remake his society, his society must make him.”
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In reality, social change takes careful planning, strategy, and a citizens that are not waiting around for a hero to save them. Rosa Parks was a key player in inciting the Civil Rights Movement, however we should not forget the rest. Not that we shouldn’t a quality hero conquest as needed – as long as it’s on Netflix instead of in our history textbooks.

 

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Rethinking My Own History

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“Power is the combined force of a multitude of voices joined together…”

 

Junior year in my high school US History class we held a presidential-election-tournament-deal, where everyone represented at least one US president whom has ever existed. I drew Ronald Reagan.

That was five years ago now, so the exact details are fuzzy, but when it was my turn to debate with the quieter, more reserved student portraying Franklin D. Roosevelt, I won. Method of victory: slander.

Years of viewing politics from only  an outsiders’ perspective, it seemed to be the correct way. Louder, more boisterous and arguably funnier than my opponent, I barraged  him with unfavorable facts about FDR; facts that were totally irrelevant to the true meaning of politics, but would nonetheless allow me to win (as many actual presidents before me) in a landslide.

At the time, my teacher was completely shocked that I, Reagan, had won the class vote—especially over FDR. While we were learning the politics of campaign work, we were not learning how to ‘do’ effective politics.

It was not until four years later when I decided to take part in the Inequality in America off-campus study program here in the Twin Cities that I truly learned what ‘doing politics’ meant. I was interning as a community organizer for Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity, while in the class was learning about organizing people to create social change. Not only did my course delve into community organizing through labor movements, but we also learned how to lobby for policies, and what that entails. This was a very transformative and empowering experience because I had never been told that my voice as a citizen and community member could create change—that my voice could, should and would be heard.

In Ken Burns PBS series Wynton Marsalis likens democracy to jazz, “In American life, you have all these different agendas. You have conflict. And we’re attempting to achieve harmony through conflict…that’s what jazz music is. It’s exactly like democracy… The real power of jazz is that a group of people can come together and improvise…negotiate their agendas with each other” (Boyte 2001).

I like this definition of politics. It represents how  as a democracy our collective voices are heard and harmonize to create effective policies. Unfortunately, in our day and age I feel that this view of our democracy has been lost. The only voices heard, are those loud enough to speak over others, usually with their dollars.

In high school I perpetuated this skewed political paradigm and took on the role of the only voice heard by trampling over my quieter opponent. If anything this victory could be likened to the victory of Reagan himself; a rich television actor who “fit” the role of president to a tee. How could he not win? His voice was extremely loud as a wealthy celebrity. But did his popular voice mean he was politically experienced and knowledgeable? Not exactly. Did it mean he knew what the people of this country wanted or needed? I’m not sold. But like in my high school, the silent masses simply went with my overpowering singular voice.

Having learned more of the political and everyday context around Reagan over time, I now see why my teacher was so shocked that I beat FDR. Personally, I am ashamed of my own pride in winning this debate. Looking back on this experience, I wonder how my teacher could have ever let that happen.

Now, don’t think that it was my history teachers fault that I was not an active citizen at that time—it was a variety of aspects made up by my entire environment growing up. If anything, I would consider this teacher one of the most influential women I had met up until that point in my life. She was my first glimpse at feminism and the level of inequality in our political system. Every day my actions and beliefs are shaped by the classes I took with her in high school. At that time though, my 16-year-old self could not grasp the ubiquitous concept of ‘isms’ because I was too wrapped up in my sports, volunteer work, school work, and student clubs to fully confront my own perceptions of inequality in our world.

This Rethink History project is important to me because I believe everyone should be empowered to use their voice in creation of a more equitable world. Especially in our world today where wealth influences our government and major power structures in place, not all voices are heard. Youth are taught not to value our place in this democracy as much we are pushed to get the best test scores. There is no way around the conflict of interest in our political world today, but at least through a rise of cohesive improvisation of all ideas brought to the table we can create a more inclusive view of our countries history and present tense.

 

Boyte, H. (2001). A tale of two playgrounds: Young people and politics. Retrieved from http://inside.augsburg.edu/publicachievement/files/2012/12/A-tale-of-two-playgrounds.pdf

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What’s in a Hero? Wendy. Davis.

Wendy Hero ReThink History: Hero Project

If you don’t know Wendy Davis, here’s the scoop. In my opinion she’s about as BA as it gets. She’s a democratic politician running for governor in the most notoriously red state in the country – Texas. Not to mention, she’s a woman. That alone takes an enormous amount of moxie (new fav word) and determination, and still it doesn’t even scratch the surface.

To her supporters and fans she may be a lot of things: a rags to riches success story, a ray of hope for Texas democrats, an abortion clinic guardian, a Harvard alumni lawyer and, of course, mom. The list could go on, however, what tends to be missing is the title Hero. So, what’s in a Hero?

☑ People who become heroes tend to be concerned with the well-being of others.

☑ Heroes are good at seeing things from the perspective of others.

☑ Heroes are competent and confident.

☑ Heroes have a strong moral compass.

☑ Having the right skills and training can make a difference.

☑ Heroes persist, even in the face of fear.

 MALE

She more than fulfills every requirement on typical qualities of a hero (spare you the details) except for the tacit and most basic of them all. Everyone knows a hero is a man. And not just any man, a strong, self-sacrificing man with a furrowed brow and a disciplined mind, ready to rescue the helpless, the unfortunate and the women.

Our image of who should be powerful and heroic extends beyond conceptual ideas and has very real consequences for Wendy and her campaign. For example, the majority of the oppositions attacks are not on her political stance, but her personal life and backstory. She’s not traditional enough, she didn’t even struggle that much, she abandoned her family, she didn’t dedicate every waking moment to her children while she was at Harvard law school… and so on.

A man going pursuing a degree in another state while the wife stays back with the kids is seen as a necessary sacrifice. A woman doing the same is seen as a unjustifiable atrocity. A male politician’s home life is barely acknowledged in most cases, while a female politician must be prepared to reveal and defend even the most irrelevant, personal details of her life.

Anyway, the election will be this November and I have no idea what to expect. I do know that the republican candidate Greg Abbott is outrageous and of course wants to cut pre-K education for only minorities, plans to vote against the equal pay act, continue the abortion clinic destruction and the usual. I 100% support Wendy in doing just the opposite.

#TeamWendy 4life

Check out the website: http://www.wendydavistexas.com/

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and tell your friends!

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ReThink History Project

Introducing the ReThink History Project:

From the moment that individuals are introduced to structures and individuals in ‘power’, there is an underlying systemic bias towards white individuals. The history of our country cannot be discussed without first addressing the historical trauma that colonialism has imposed on individuals of color within the boundaries of the United States, and beyond. Iris Young discusses the five faces of oppression as: exploitation, marginalization, powerlessness, cultural imperialism, and violence.  The main oppressive event that everyone’s mind jumps to is slavery. While slavery was not just taking place in the U.S., it has greatly shaped how our country developed policies and laws that may still be in place today. Not only have our political institutions been formed under this social construction of ‘whiteness’, but so has popular media, the entire academic system, and the cycle of socialization in our world.

In Winston Churchill’s 1946 Iron Curtain speech he addresses the all-too-often-phenomena of history being written by the victors. Our stories and our history should never be forgotten, yet so often there are individuals whom have made powerful changes in the United States, whose stories and names remain out of our history curricula and classrooms. In her TedTalks speech, Chimamanda Adichie speaks to “the danger of a single story” representing an entire group of people. The true American dream of a ‘Land of Opportunity’ has been lost.

Through the ReThink History project we aim to bring light to those individuals not recognized in our history textbooks, or discussed in the standard classroom setting – yet should never be forgotten.  We believe taking an honest look at the past and questioning the normal history narrative can help everyone understand, and improve, our world.  We would like to acknowledge the many different lenses and approaches that could be taken for this history project, yet we choose to specially focus on female identified individuals. Through this project we will post on Thursdays, around topics relating to this subject matter, in order to help us all become more educated on our past and present.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask either in the comments section below or through personal email: rethinkhistoryproject@gmail.com

Please take a look at the first project we will be leading:

Redefining Hero

Words—an interlocking web of significance. Life is breathed into an idea through them. With the power that a single utterance can provide, we began to think, “What does “hero” mean?  This word has worn many faces. A great uncle who beat cancer, a next-door-neighbor who volunteered abroad, a famous deep-sea diver—the list is endless. With this in mind, we wondered, “What is the commonly assumed embodiment of a hero?” “What is the stereotype?” “What is the definition of a hero.” According to Oxford Dictionary:

he·ro

ˈhi(ə)rō/

noun: hero; plural noun: heroes;


”A person, typically male, who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.”

We are curious if this one-dimensional depiction of what a “hero” is limits the exposure of other important heroes. Throughout history, white males have been featured in many positions of power, and thus have been seen as heroes. Undeniably, there are countless white men who have done great things in this world. However, the way our media, textbooks, and cultural perpetuation shape our understanding of what it has meant and what it means now to be a “hero” often confines our perspectives to one narrative.

So, we are interested.

  • How do you define “a hero?”
  • Who inspires you?
  • Who is your hero?

We are hopeful that this project will bring awareness and exposure to many different types of heroes.

By submitting your story, you can add to a collection that will be un-uniformed and undefined. We are very excited to see the submissions! They can be submitted in the form of:

  • Written response: The length is subjective, however, the more concise you can be, the better!

  • Video response: A short clip can be submitted to the e-mail address provided.

  • In person video recording with our team: We will be conducting short video recordings at the U of M campus.

E-Mail Address: Rethinkhistoryproject@gmail.com

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