Thursday, February 19, 2015

Roger Ebert

As a precursor to our new unit centering around amazing people you've probably never heard of, we spent a majority of the week talking about Roger Ebert. He gained fame as a film critic reviewing hundreds of films. Ebert was known for having strong opinions and standing by them. In his career he went on to have a television show swell as develop the popular thumbs up/thumbs down rating system. However that's what made Roger Ebert a successful person but made him amazing was when he fell ill. Ebert had cancer which caused him to lose the ability to talk and lose part of his jaw before eventually taking his life in 2011. When a person faces tragedy they do one of two things, they sink or they swim. Roger Ebert swam using his blog to regain his voice addressing a variety of topics. 
I think what made Roger Ebert so inspiring was his ability to connect with people. He didn't preach he just wrote in a way that people could connect to.

To me what made Roger Ebert's views so inspiring was that there was life behind them. They were the epiphanies of a dying man which added so much more weight to them. Roger Ebert was dying but he refused to let these new found ideas die with him. It goes along with the sink or swim idea. As he was swimming from diagnosis to unfortunate death he was able to really evaluate life in a way that most people are never able to. You could tell that every point Ebert made came from careful reflection and consideration. I think what inspired me the most was his optimism. He talks about personal narcism and loneliness but not in a downtrodden way. Instead he twists it to support community and to get across his personal thoughts one the importance of love and kindness. One of my favorite lines in Ebert's blog post All the Lonely People was " We want to say "I am alive" in a billion billion different ways" I really related to this because I remember thinking this is so true. We're all fumbling around trying to find our niche and trying to find what makes us happy. Everything Roger Ebert said was filled with truth and it doesn't necessarily have to change you, personally they didn't cause a huge life altering epiphany. But for the moments i spent reading the posts they did inspire me which says a lot to be able to motivate people even though the only thing left of you are the words on a computer screen. And I think Roger Ebert's ability to inspire, though words of optimism and wisdom, makes him truly amazing.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Review of Racism in America

Over the past month my opinion on racism has been altered drastically. I knew that racism was still a part of life in America but I was skeptical of the impact it had on the majority of the population. However through our discussions I've become much more open minded. White privilege was a major topic we discussed that before class I've never even heard of before. White privilege is the idea that due to the accumulation of racism over time, minorities are automatically at a disadvantage. An example of this would be that a white child has upper middle class parents so they live in a school district with decent schools. An african American kid on the other hand lives in a less wealthy community because his parents and grandparents didn't make enough money to be well educated. The african american kid may have the same amount of potential as the white kid yet because he attended a worse school he didn't get as good of an education and is immediately set back. White privilege works off the same kind of idea as accumulative advantage that Malcolm Gladwell discusses. Over generations of minorities being at a significant disadvantage their losses have accumulated giving white people a statistical upper hand.

I don't think white privilege is something that we as a society are going to be able to fix. You can't punish the white kid for being born born better off nor can you give the african american kid unearned advantages. Affirmative action is one attempt at evening the playing field by giving students in a minority  better chance of getting into college but it too causes problems. The only solution to white privilege is time. As society progresses the lines between white and black are blurred. As generations of minorities get the kind of education and opportunities that all people deserve the accumulated privileges of the white will lessen until they're so minuscule that they no longer actually give any benefits. The success of people or lack there of can not be based souly on race. It is obvious that a white kid who's parents are millionaires could still end up unemployed and  bankrupt but thats not the point of white privilege. The point is not that white people can't succeed on their own or minorities are destined to fail, the point is that its important to acknowledge the disadvantages that are still a part of life due to racial discrimination.

Another topic that interested me a lot this unit was the idea of cultural appropriation. Unlike some of the other topics we discussed cultural appropriation is something that I was aware of before doing our racism unit. I feel like this is an extremely important topic to be aware of because it stretches past the already broad topic of race and culture and stretches to religion. Cultural appropriation is basically when aspects of a certain cultural are adopted by a cultural outsider. Clothing is often one of the biggest examples of this. An example would be a shirt with a Native American symbol printed on it being sold somewhere that is clearly not using it for cultural meaning. A lot of stores are culprits of this by selling cultural articles as fashion. Urban Outfitters is one of the biggest offenders stealing things from culture and religions s much so that they have often had to take things out of their stores because of it.

When it comes to cultural appropriation the issue isn't that people are wearing things from different cultures. The issue is that people are taking things from other cultures and religions but remain ignorant of the true meaning. Sometimes the true meaning is lost with appropriation which is the biggest offense of all. Buddhism is a prime example because of its core teachings. Since the religion promotes peace and living simply people will often take Buddhist symbols and use them only to represent tranquility completely ignoring the religious symbolism behind completely. It is important to embrace other cultures as long as you do your research. Learn about the culture and its values. However if you don't know what something is don't wear it. Its offensive to the strong believers and makes you look ignorant. Embrace cultures but don't steal from them. Race is a tricky topic because its easy to offend people when you don't know what you're talking about. Thats why I think it was s important we discussed it in class. Its something we don't get the chance to discuss in other classes and overall i think we were able to have a lot of serious and enlightening conversations. I definitely think I'm better informed now and much more open minded.