Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Human Classification in 2008

Throughout our discussion of Puddn'head Wilson, we've analyzed race from a comfortable distance by keeping the novel situated squarely in the 19th century. Do you think that our society today still faces the same issues of race and classification that Twain questioned and satirized in his works? Is our sociey better off? Worse? The same? Can you think of any specific examples to support your opinion?

Feel free to address not only Puddn'head Wilson but also Ethnic Notions, Social Darwinism, "freak shows" and human circuses, and any other issues that have coincided with our study of the text.

Before you respond, please read a short article published today by clicking here. You may use this article in your response if you wish, but please don't feel limited by it (you may address other, non-related topics as well).

As always, remember that this is a conversation; be sure to read and comment on each other's posts.

31 comments:

christas said...

I think that our society today still has the same issues of race and classification as it did in the 19th century, though they may not be as severe. For instance, when we did the activity called “Subconscious Stereotypes” first semester, most of us said that when we thought of a black male, we thought of a criminal or someone who is not completely honorable. When we thought of a Latino, most of us thought of a janitor or a fast-food worker. I think that although our country is much more accepting and has ample opportunity for all races, there is still a subconscious feeling of superiority in many of us. For most people, Caucasians are usually the race that comes to mind when one thinks of millionaires or extremely successful businessmen, or even of presidents. Although other races like Latinos and blacks have been extremely successful in our country, whites still seem to be perceived as the “dominant” race by many people. I think that our country is both better off and worse off than the 19th century. On one hand, blacks and other races are free and able to work for their own money and are not viewed as “less-evolved” than whites. However, I think that in our society we are still most comfortable with people that are like us. All races have preconceived notions about one another, but instead of publicly exposing these prejudices, like people did in the 19th century; we keep silent for fear of being called racist. Our country prides itself on being a Melting Pot and for taking in all kinds of ethnic groups, but I don’t think that our country has yet become a true Melting Pot that accepts everyone.

Rachel L said...

I think, like Christa, that today's society still has the same racial issues as when Twain was writing, although they are slowly...very slowly, dying out. We do not have slavery any more, nor the forced labor of any other race, and for that we have viewed ourselves as evolved.

But there is still a lot of racism in the United States today. We subconsciously stereotype from the views of the influential people around us. And not all stereotypes are bad, but they are massing an entire spectrum of people into a few specific categories.

There is some sort of deeply inbred instinct in humans to be immediately wary of things that are not like us. Darker skin, different shapes of bodies, and so on stick out from the norm. And as a result, I think humans tend to shy away from those and "fear" or "be angry" with difference because it is different from the "group." We are social creatures, as you know, and fitting in is necessary for "survival."

In short, the whites look down upon other races because we see them as different from ourselves and a threat to the order that has been established for many years. As these orders slowly fade away, (like slavery and segregation laws) acceptance of the foreigners begins.

jessie w said...

I agree with both that today's society still struggles with the issues of racism and prejudice against any other race but caucasian. It is just illustrated differently today than it was when Twain wrote "Puddn'head Wilson".

As for our society today, I do think we are better off than we were then. Today, more people recognize what a mistake is being made when "we" separate people by race or discriminate them by nationality. With this realization, as Ghandi said, we can be the change we wish to see in the world. I however think that we have a long way to go before we reach a "perfect" society. I still can't believe that story we talked about in class about the one kid in Boston with the cashier calling him "gator bait." Or when that reporter talked about the only way to beat Tiger Woods would be to lynch him. Both are completely unacceptable, and it's a prime example of how our society has room for improvement.

My question is how do you exactly make this stop in our society today? We live in a free country where unfortunately people have the choice to say what they want whether it's right or not. Or will this be an ongoing problem forever?

Hannah S said...

To a certain degree racism will always exist. I think that in the 19th century, it was a bit more spoken than it is today. Also, it depends on where you are raised. From what i hear, racism against African Americans is still very intense in the South. However, last year (before i transferred) my school was 40% Asian. There was almost no race issues. We lived in harmony with one another. We percieved eachother as equals. Sure it was unusual to see dating in another race, and certain people will always have an issue with that. I think that we have improved a lot since the 19th century.

There will always be barriers between races, however they have shrinken considerably in the past 100 years

endsleye said...

I also agree with Christa. I do believe that today we have some of the similar issues of race and classification. For example, when we think of lawn workers or construction workers we usually think of mexicans. Just like when we did the activity "Subconscious Stereotypes". When we are raised we are brought up to thinking a certain way. Like how we think nurses should be women and doctors men. We might not have the exact issuses as there were in the 19th century but we definitely do classify people.

sweta said...

Racial prejudice and stereotypical judgments still exists in today’s society. In 19th society, it was not considered racial to enslave a black person and it was not considered immoral to harass them. The idea of them being “less evolved” than the white population was adapted throughout the country. No one questioned their inhumanity but they got sucked right into this never ending black hole.
The only difference between the racial barriers between today’s society and that of 19th century is the fear of being known as the bad person. No one fully admits that they are racists, but in reality all of us are. I like the connection Christa made on how we all have subconscious stereotypical idea within us.
Going on the topic of Social Darwinism and how it is all about survival of the fittest, I think people believe that it is essential for one to look like a white person to succeed in life. But since not every one has the blonde hair blue eyes look, in America, every one strives to act like a white person. Let’s take our own school Arapahoe for example; the majority of our student body as well as faculty is made up of Caucasian heritage. And the minority acts like they are white. I know this because I myself feel the need to fit in to “survive”. Everyone wants to be different but is overpowering how hard it is for today’s society to accept the one that actually are different. This goes back to the freak shows in the 19th century and how they were not looked upon as humans but just as objects of entertainment.
So I believe that racial injustice is still engraved in people’s mind and it will forever remain.

emilya said...

I agree with what most people have said...I think our society still faces the same issues of race and classification that Twain questioned and satirized in his works, but in a lesser degree. There will always be prejudice when it comes to careers, friends, and the way we look at people in our society today. Although, never will it be where we have the power to be in control of another person. We also will never take such extremtities as did Roxy in Pudd'nhead Wilson. Our society is much better off with the racial issues decreasing.

juliab said...

Let's discuss Obama, shall we? :)

People across the country are saying that they will not vote for Obama because he is black and they do not think that America is "ready" for a black President. Interestingly enough, these people mention nothing about his experience, lifestyle, or history. I, on the other hand, object to Obama being President, not because he is black, but because he has very little qualifications or history of involvement in government.

I would definitely say that America as a whole is very race-oriented, possibly because race is spotlighted when it is present, like Obama said.

Just thought I should point this out and let you discuss!

JoshB901 said...

Julia
You stated in your response that you would not elect Obama for his lack of qualifications to be president; but did you know that nine U.S. presidents never went to college? Those nine men consisted of George Washington, Abe Lincoln, Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren, Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore, Andrew Johnson, Grover Cleveland, and Harry Truman. A majority of those men helped guide our country through difficult times. In addition, our current president, George W. Bush, received a Master of Business Administration from Harvard Business School in 1975. Following graduation, he moved back to Midland and began a career in the energy business. He really did nothing to prepare him for politics he just winged it. So do not judge people on their lack of qualifications but rather for their character and their ability to adapt and learn.

shaunam said...

Our society today definately faces the same issues of race and classification that Twain questions in his novels. Just like in the subconcious experiment that Endsley mentioned, we all tend to think of a particular race first without thinking about it, whether or not we mean to. I didn't realize that subconsiously, I did the same thing as a spur of the moment answer without thinking. When told to think of the person who would most likely be a CEO, or millionare, I thought Caucasian like the majority of the class. I think that the society is better off on the outside, but not necessarily on the inside. We definately do not show the subconcious classification, but in some people its still there. Just as in Pudd'nhead Wilson with the twins. The town made the twins popular amongst them but in reality, shut them out from the rest of society to be put on display.

erinl said...

I agree with several other people in that we still face the same issues of race that we faced 150 years ago just not as extreme. I agree that there are still some barriers that Americans need to overcome in order for everyone to get along. I like what Rachel said, how racial issues are slowly dying out. I think that as the new generation of people come into society that they will not be as racist as the generations before. Eventually, we will get to a point where there is little racial issues. I think that the reason that will still have some racial prejudice today is because society has subconscious stereotypes, which won’t go away easily. There is hardly anything that we can do to erase these images, except for letting time pass. I hope that if there were to be a black President, that more and more people would look past racial differences and people would come together.

juliab said...

Josh ~ You provided further proof for my case: Bush was not "trained" to go into government and certainly was not qualified to run our country on such an international scale. My point was that in today's society a president or leader should be a person who is qualified to handle the situations that are most important to the existence of that country right off the bat, and that race should not be the deciding factor.
Hopefully in the future,the people of America can look past race or gender to choose a leader that is most qualified to protect the people. :)

jberry said...

Hannah brought up a strong point, racism will always exist. I think that we are just as racist, if not more, than during the time of Puddn'head Wilson. Now, however, it's a disgrace and crude to be racist. We hide our racism, but a person will never treat a person with totally different ethnicities and cultures with the same respect as one of their own. We don't understand the reasoning behind other's actions; therefore, we discriminate because it might be a little more off than our normalities.

Obama has a very optimistic approach to racism in the USA. Part of me doesn't think that he actually believes what he tells people. But as a campaigner, he doesn't want to ridicule his audience... but make them seem glorified.

lauraf said...

Our society today does still have racist opinions that come out in every day life; however, the criticism in our media does not focus on race to present entertainment as it did in the 19th century. The freak shows, caricatures and other humiliating methods of entertainment used to degrade 'differences' are not the same as today. Often we consume our time with magazines and articles reading about anorexic/obese people. Instead of pointing out unchanging aspects, the media grabs more attention by filling movies, tv shows, magazines, etc with physical aspects the rest of society either craves to possess, or mocks at, afraid to look the same.

juliab said...

Jess ~ I love your explanation of how Obama treats the audience, and how he wants them to feel glorified. Brilliant!

*AlexxM_* said...

I think that even though race is still an issue in the country... but when one dwells upon it, it often becomes overblown and full of crap. Sure, there really are people who hate blacks. But aren't there also people who hate whites? I realize that white people are the majority, but hating on them (for lack of a better phrase) isn't going to help soothe social wounds.

I see commercials frequently on television for the United Negro College Fund. It begins telling the viewer a number of somewhat random everyday objects (ex: traffic light), and then proceeds into informing us that it was invented by a Negro, and that "A mind is a terrible thing to waste....Give money now." I think thats great. Am I going to send money? No. The fact that the UNCF can pay to produce those ads and broadcast them on satellite TV means that 10 more people could have received a college education.

Barack Obama remains a politician, no matter what race, sex, or political orientation. But is Obama being railed against for his race publicly by Mitt Romney (although I could see him doing it) or Hilary Rodham Clinton? No. The Media brings attention to it because they know that people gravitate towards conflict. It's more fun.

What would happen if a gay, black/latino, handicapped woman was running for president? And her name was Osama bin Ladia, out of pure coincidence? People would soon get over the fact that she was those things. Imagine she was the most political savvy person the world has ever seen. America, I think, has outgrown its immature slave-age. We are ready for Barack Obama. We just pretend not to be.

*AlexxM_* said...

wow my first sentence is screwed up.

should read:

I think that race is still an issue in out country...

thank you for your time. :]

maria k said...

Christa, Rachel--I agree with you guys, I think we definitely still have race discrimination today, especially still in some of the South. However, I think we have branched it out a little bit to not only African-Americans, but also to Latino, Middle-Eastern, and even some Asian.

Jesse--I think we are on our way to fixing this, and I think one of the prominent ways would be to elect a non-caucasion president, such as Obama. I don't know if this would cause more problems, and it could, but I also think it would help. Of course, race isn't the only characteristic we should look for in our president, but I think it would be a major step forward, especially in foreign exchange.

Julia--Wow, I just saw your comment, sorry I didn't read all of them. I don't want to turn this into a political debate, but I like some of the things you said. It's true that some won't vote for Obama because he IS black, and not for any other reasons. However, I like his morals even though I'm not usually Democrat. I also think that because of his Middle-Eastern background, he would be very good at handling our troubles in that area today. I really hope that people look past the skin, and I think that most Americans really want to, but there is still so much controversy.

It's so interesting how sometimes what people wrote a whole century ago can still apply to our world today!

Kristen said...

There was one quote that I found very interesting in the Obama article; "...leaders have the responsibility to break through barriers, including mind barriers."

The only question is if the "race issue" is a barrier we can break. No matter where a person lives, if someone approaches them of a different race, the first thing that will pop into their head is, "Hey, they are black/latino/asian/white etc.". While that may be the first thing someone notices, it does not necessarily mean they are judging their abilities based on that fact. It seems to me that sometimes people want the world to ignore the fact that there are different races and see everyone as one collective group. However, I think we should embrace the different races of the world instead of trying to forget about them. I think this is one of the biggest differences between today's society and Twain's. We have come along way since the 19th century, but it is an impossibility to think that the world can forget about race altogether.

Laurab said...

This is actually Julia, despite the posting name. :)

How would people react differently towards Obama if he was white instead of black?

Laine G said...

Compared to the times of Puddn'head Wilson, today I think that we have some of the same issues as well as many new ones. Presently there are still unspoken prejudices as well as many loudly spoken generalizations based on race. While today we no longer have such a large issue with slavery, we have many new ones too, illegal immigration being the most visible. Occasional, Latinos are assumed to be illegal based on no facts at all. Although, racial issues are not nearly as visible today, they are still present, just on a much smaller scale.

Tina L said...

*Disclaimer* Everything sounds SO profound in my head, but I'm having trouble getting it out right, and the harder I try the more I lose it. Thanks for trying to understand this:

I think Christa brings up a strong point, though I have to disagree a little. I believe that today we still have subconscious (and for some people it's not subconscious, there still are blatant racists) stereotypes, but I think they are not exactly the same ones.

We tend to see white males as millionaires and black males as criminals, I think, but it's because it's ingrained that way, sort of like the things we saw in Ethnic Notions was ingrained. The difference is that back then, they believed black people deserved to be slaves and were less than human, and today most people just have stereotypes somewhere in the back of their brains. These days, instead of the mammies and the sambos, it's "cool" to act black, because now it's associated with music and bling. I know way too many white boys who think they're black, anyway. And let's face it, some of it is based on reality (because of the way history happened, some groups are, IN GENERAL, poorer than others, or have different qualities). Because of this kernel of truth, I think that subconscious stereotypes are natural. Racism, the truly harmful quality, is only when you BELIEVE that no one from that race can be successful, or isn't as good as you are.

I disagree with the comment the woman said in the Obama article, that America is not "ready" for a black President. I just forgot ALL my reasoning behind this. I will get back to you later.

Long day...long post...goodnight.

P.S. Julia, I LOVE you for getting on and posting and then posting again an hour later. :) I really do admire all the effort you put into your work.

Dev said...

I definitely agree with many of the people on the bog saying that discrimination of race is still a big part of our society. I agree with what Christa and Endsleye said that the discrimination is mostly seen in stereotypes and how we view people different from us. Part of the reason why we have these stereotypes is because the media. Although, we may not realize it TV shows like MTV and rap songs degrade women and people of different races. As we listen and see more and more of these songs and images they become part of our sub-conscious mind. Although there are still some radicals in places in the United States that are still very racist I think that the discrimination we have in our society is seen in our stereotypes.

In Pudd’inhead Wilson many people in the novel were very racist because racism was accepted and almost suggested. In our society we still have discrimination, however, it is looked down upon. We there fore try to hide that part of ourselves and the result is sub-conscious stereotypes.

I would like to hope that eventually we could get rid of the discrimination in our society all together, and not look down or feel bad about people who are different than us. Is it really possible for people not to judge others who are different from them?

Annika_EP said...

Julia- What is saying that Obama isn't qualified?? And also, I think people would support him more, because as much as we don't want to believe it, the American public is still ridiculously prejudiced.

I think that as long as people have parents and societies that they are brought up in, there will still be racism. We are so influenced just by what other people say, that we forget to look at what the real facts are to frame an opinion. Like the article said, the woman didn't even support Obama because he was black until she looked at what his actual political standing was. That really bugs me about people, when they just support who their parents support and don't actually take the time to look them up for their beliefs. GAH!

People have free minds, and you would think that would be the answer, but that is part of the problem. There is no great teacher telling the average citizen to go back and check their work and make sure their facts are correct.

As long as people have the freedom to think for themselves, they are always going to be very opinionated, and sometimes, though we think it is awful, it is just what they believe. It's like a presidential race. Some people think it would be the END of the world to have candidate A be president, while others think it would be the best. People just think really differently.

I don't think this difference in opinion is necessarily good or bad, it just is and always will be.

[Sorry if my little blurb seemed at all biased, I work on the Obama campaign. :D]

Brynn Holstein said...

Stereotypes are based on appearances and first impressions of people. The issues that Mark Twain satirizes are still relevant today, even if it doesn’t have to do with prejudice based on skin color. People are still judged on their religion, their clothing and even hair color, for example blondes. I think that uncertainty of one another has caused this prejudice world wide. However, society has instilled in us that things such as racism and judging people are wrong, and I agree with that statement, but to a point you have to wonder why those issues even exist. Society has experienced a slow progression of learning to accept our differences, but that doesn’t mean that everyone has been open-minded to the idea of equality. Ultimately individual have the option of changing their mind set towards others that are different than themselves, and that really scares a lot of people. I think that stereotypes and prejudice will continue to slowly disappear as each generation is taught the repercussions of discrimination.

saram said...

I agree with basically everything that everyone has mentioned so far. We do still have the same issues of race and classification that were illustrated in Twain's novel, but they aren't as intense as they used to be. As mentioned in the article about Obama, there will always be prejudice; we will just become more accustomed to people of different races taking on different roles in our society, including a non white man for president. I believe that our society will be better off once we can eliminate the divisions of race, but it will definitely take time. As many others mentioned, the 'Subconscious Stereotypes' shows how people in the world today still have people in mind for different roles in our lives. When thinking of a cleaning person, to most people a Mexican person will come to mind. When thinking of a doctor a man will come to mind. Once we can eliminate these racial and gender stereotypes, the world will be a much better place. It will be a very long, yet meaningful process.

tanal said...

I realize that many people have already mentioned this on the blog so I'm sorry for repeating anything that people may have already said but I do think that we currently still face the same issues with race and classification that were dealt with in Puddn'head Wilson but not to such an extreme. I think that some people may deny the fact that these issues still occur in our society today because they don't want to believe that we are actually these bad people that judge people by their race or by the way they look. Also these problems aren't as bad in our society today as they were back when Twain wrote this book so I think that the issues aren't noticed as easily and as much.

I wouldn't necessarily say that our society is better off today than it was just because we still do have race issues in our county like Obama running for president like Julia and many others have mentioned but I do think that we don't have as bad of issues anymore. Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. were a couple of people during the Civil Rights Movement that made a huge difference in the way that blacks were viewed in our society and they had a huge impact on the people of the United States. I think that we have almost become one country and not split up because of race since then and these issues are not as bad in present day so in a way I do think we are better off today than we were in the 19th century.

[Collin L] said...

My opinion is that our society has changed from the time that Mark Twain wrote Pudd’nhead Wilson. However instead of the racism in America vanishing, I fear that in actuality has gotten worse. Now instead of only whites being racist, all races are now racist and prejudice against one another. Even though it is hidden more than it ever has been, it commonly shows its ugly face. I’m sure that we have all heard on the Jena Six incident. This was an equal mishap on both sides of the story. Even through equal opportunity and equal pay there is still come discrepancy based on the origin of you ancestors.
love Collin

Damian L. said...

Old habits die hard, that is with where slavery is most active and the old men who believe in it continue to feed their children and grandchildren lies about white supremacy being true. Society as a whole though has gotten better minus the stereo-types that are still floating around today against race and sex. The day everyone starts liking each other for who they are I hope I’m not here because if anyone bottles up their feelings for too long they will explode with a bloodlust and start to kill everyone, because there will no be a day when everyone truly likes everyone else for who they are. It sounds like I’m a pessimist, but its true. This is all because of society who dictates what is cool, wrong, and what is “acceptable,” defined by the man of course.

clewis said...

I agree with Julia in that hopefully America can choose a leader not based on gender or race, but on how well he can run a country. Although this country is based on different races, and religions, and other things. This is why illegal immigration is such an issue because our country is the land of the free, home of the brave, and anyone should be allowed in to this country. But like others said, when we think of McDonald's or construction workers, we think of Mexicans, while when we look at businesses and success, we think of white men.

This just popped in my mind; does this remind anyone of West Side Story? In that, the white treat the Puerto Ricans with hate. This also reminds me of Freedom Writers and what was going in that period; everything was a war, to show which race was best. Should our country be based on ethinicity or how we contribute to our country?

Lara McDougald said...

Like almost everyone that has posted before me, I also agree that stereotypes and prejudice exists today. I think that our society and Twain’s are equally bad off. Discrimination between races has been cut down since Twain’s century because laws have been eliminated. Still, I think stereotypes are more engrained in our society than ever. In our class, we did an activity on subconscious stereotypes and it was clear that the majority of us held these common stereotypes. For example, most of us thought of a white female when we pictured a high school teacher. I think that these stereotypes are even worse because it is so hard to even acknowledge that we hold them.

In my in-class essay, I wrote about how Twain satirized the huge cultural difference between white and black society. This aspect of Twain’s time still exists today. One example is our community of Littleton, CO. The majority of people are white. Yet, in Denver there is more diversity of races. There is definitely this separation between ethnic groups. It is so strange to think that after all the civil right movements and advancements over the centuries that this prejudice, separation, and stereotypes could exist between societies. Hopefully, as time passes, people will learn to accept each other and fully mix together in society.