Posts Tagged ‘civil rights’

stroudmain1StroudsburgPAHPMain St. is a very interesting American icon. For one, I really like the idea of living in a town where I would know most everyone, be able to buy things off credit and have everything I need so close to where I lived. It does not surprise me that people long for this type of community. I like going to my neighboring town, Stroudsburg, Pa, because of Main Street. And that is because in a place were I have to drive to go anywhere, Main Street is a change of pace, not to mention all the local, non-chain restaurants reside there. Unfortunately the proliferation of Main Street in Disneyland is worrisome.

In Constructing Main Street: Utopia an the Imagined Past, Orvell writes of re-creation of towns like Williamsburg as “escapist fantasies” and a “retreat to a past that was socially less conflicted, LESS ETHNIC.” America’s nostalgic and idealistic past is one of White america, not the melting pot. Williamsburg is, “representative of a time long before the immigrant hoardes invaded America.” To add insult to injury, the African American presence in Williamsburg, the representation of the very people this nation was built by, the backs America’s wealth was made on, were not “adequately acknowledged, and even then in a form that essentially cleansed the brutalities of slavery from the living record that Williamsburg was to be.” It seems to be America’s collective memory and wish to continue to represent the nation as free, equal and democratic instead of a nation that celebrated homogeny, and repression. This facade is “the essence of the inauthentic, it represents nothing but itself, its own factitious universe,” the very statement Orvell uses to describe Disneyland.

Disneyland represents White middle class America’s wish, in the 1950s and even today, to forget the inequality and repression so present in the nation. It is interesting that Disney used his park to critique the suburbs  because his park would also be used as de-facto segregation against minorities and the poor, which was comprised overwhelmingly of minorities. His park becomes exactly what he is critiquing – an escape from the city, an escape from ethnicity, and escape from the poor. In the Making of Disneyland, Lipsitz states, “Disneyland was the success it was in part because the founder’s fantasy so closely resembled the shared desires of millions of Americans,” supporting the idea that those in power – White middle class America, wanted a place where only “the right” people could enter. Disneyland helps support the idea of the 1950s as “the last ‘good decade’: an innocent, affluent, peaceful and secure time, before the riots and protests of the 1960s.” The myth of the 1950s is exactly that, a myth. Never in American history was there a time of innocence, peace, and security. This myth only existed  behind the “gates” of White America. Those on the other side of the gate lived and continue to live the struggles, contradictions and oppressive state of America that ultimately led to the “chaos” of the 1960s. This factitious place of a better America does not exist, and if, we as a nation continue to fuel myth, we will never be able to face our past or our present. halloween-at-disneyland-paris-resort-feat-1.1

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Rosa Parks is often hailed as the “mother of the Civil Rights movement.” She became a household name following her refusal to vacate her seat for a white man on a Montgomery bus in December 1955. Her subsequent arrest (and the year long bus boycott which ensued) resulted in the repeal of racial segregation on all public transport, a huge step in the right direction towards equality. Because of this act of defiance, we think of Parks as being an extremely courageous woman with a rebellious streak; after all, she remained in her seat even though the three other black people in her row complied with the bus driver’s command to move to the back. She was fully aware of the consequences of such a decision, but she took the risk anyway. Despite this, she always appears as a calm and dignified lady. A great example of this is the life-size statue in the U.S. Capitol which shows an unassuming Parks in a saintly pose with her hands resting peacefully in her lap. This is perhaps the most admirable of her qualities; the fact that she didn’t seek celebrity from her actions, but was modestly doing what she felt was right.

Although primarily known as a sporting star, Muhammad Ali (born Cassius Clay) was also involved in the Civil Rights movement. Like Parks, he was scarred by the southern Jim Crow laws when he was growing up. Indeed, he started boxing as a means to escape a life of poverty which would likely have awaited him. However, he was much more controversial than Parks. In 1964 he announced that he had converted to Islam and had changed his name. This shocked the nation and many high profile newspapers completely refused to acknowledge the name change. Just three years later he refused to join the U.S. army after being drafted to fight in Vietnam because he believed that a race war was taking place in America. For this, he was stripped of his boxing title and found guilty of draft evasion charges. While Parks was widely glorified for her actions, Ali was once one of the most despised public figures in the U.S, deemed a potential security risk and often going on stage to a sea of boos. His image presents him as being quite the opposite of Parks; often with his fists clenched and an angry expression upon his face. While both of these icons achieved a lot for the rights of black people in America, they each did so in their own individual way.

Alana Johnston (QUB)


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Coretta Scott King, most famously known due to her husband, Martin Luther King Jr., was a civil rights activist during their marriage and after his assassination. She helped the passing of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, was involved in the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955. After her husband’s death she extended the civil rights movement, the focus moved from solely racial equality to women’s rights, economic equality and rights for the LGBT community

Rosa Parks, “the first lady of civil rights”, refused to vacate her seat for a white man, on a Montgomery bus in December 1955. This action sparked a year long bus boycott which resulted in the city of Montgomery repealing their law of racial segregation on public buses, due to it being deemed un-constitutional.

Both women undoubtedly did a lot for the civil rights movement in the 50s and 60s, however, as shown in the pictures, Scott King took a more constitutional approach to the movement, meeting with Democratic party member and US Senator, Robert F. Wagner, and helping pass the civil rights bill. Parks on the other hand, described as a quiet and unassuming lady, seen in the picture gazing out the bus window, created the cause for a bus boycott which would change the face of racial segregation forever. Although Parks is more celebrated and widely know, I think that Scott King, achieved a lot for the movement and should be remembered for her efforts and constitutional gains, rather than simply being the wife of Martin Luther King Jr.




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The Red/Lavender Scare

The Lavender Scare/The Red Scare.
This political cartoon accused President Truman of protecting “traitors and queers”. President Truman’s loyalty board refused cartons like this from appearing in the Washington Herald Times. The picture is an anecdote to Edgar Bergen with his ventriloquist dummy Charlie McCarthy depicting President Truman.
Around the same time the ‘red scare’ was taking place in the United States fronted by Senator Joseph McCarthy. He used Communism to exploit homosexuals in government positions. A Senate report branded these people (homosexuals) with; ‘the lack of emotional stability which is found in most sex perverts, and the weakness of their moral fiber, makes them susceptible to the blandishments of the foreign espionage.’ (http://diogenesii.wordpress.com/tag/the-lavender-scare/ ). It was thought in the 1950’s that homosexuality was a mental condition therefore these people would be more susceptible to becoming a spy or they could be blackmailed if they worked for the government. Richard Hofstadter refers to this type of propaganda as the ‘paranoid style’, playing on people’s fears and seeing the fate of conspiracy in ‘apocalyptic terms’ with the threat of nuclear warfare. Eric Foner points out that anticommunism was a form of self defence against Republican charges of disloyalty and became ‘ at tool wielded by white supremacists against black civil rights, employers against unions, and upholders of sexual morality and traditional gender roles against homosexuality., all allegedly responsible for eroding the country’s fighting spirit.’ (Foner, E (1998). The Story of American Freedom . New York : W.W. Norton . pg256.)
Anti-Communism was a means of keeping the minorities within American society under control and prevented them from mobilizing through exploitation and oppression in order to maintain capitalisation in America.

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