Tag Archives: sociology

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

(The following essay contains excerpts from a presentation given at this year’s Race, Ethnicity, and Place Conference in Cleveland, OH)

“Can’t we all just get along?” These are the famous words from police brutality victim Rodney King that sparked the 1992 L.A. uprisings, some call “riots.”  What exactly does it mean for two people groups “to get along” in the context of White supremacist violence and domination? In July of 1967, there was another set of uprisings in the city of Detroit, Michigan. In the aftermath of the rioting,  President Lyndon Baines Johnson commissioned a report to investigate the cause of the riot and ways to prevent it in the future. The infamous Detroit Riot of 1967 led to the federal investigation into social unrest in what would be published in the Kerner Report.

Nearly fifty years later America is still haunted by the ghosts of the Kerner Report. In particular, the major findings of the report still ring true. The continued impact of hundreds of years of systematic oppression has created a deep rift between the experiences of many black Americans and white Americans, which led to the report’s conclusion:  “Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, and one white- separate and unequal.” Although this report was published in 1968, it described a reality not unlike today.

The lack of political power was a major frustration of many of the participants in the riots. The report reads: “What the rioters appeared to be seeking was fuller participation in the social order and material benefits enjoyed by the majority of American citizens.” (NACCD, 1967)  The lack of political representation in local government only further angered the residents. The demographics of the Detroit had transformed so that African Americans were the majority by 1967. However, this change in demographic was not evident in political representation.

Minority political under representation continues to be a problem today in many places. In Ferguson, where Michael Brown was shot, the overall population of the city is over sixty percent African American. However, they only make up around fifteen percent of local legislators. According to Karen Shanton, approximately 1.2 million African Americans across 175 different communities do not have proportionate representation in their cities (Shanton, 2016). She goes on to describe how groups that are not descriptively represented are less like to participate in the political process or have someone advocate for their interests. Political disengagement and inattention simply helped to perpetuate a system of mistrust between civic leaders and the community. In a country where a revolution was sparked by the words, “No taxation without representation,” it would seem as if representative democracy in this republic strictly favors the dominant culture. The vast majority of whites continue to believe that everyone receives equal opportunities in America, while minorities on the other hand see great disparities. In other words, our nation continues to “move towards two societies, one black, and one white- separate and unequal.”

 

Chaos/ Order Motif in Thundercats (2011)

As promised the newly revised about section of my blog my first new post in three years is about Thundercat, the American animated cartoon. Yesterday, I woke up around 9:00am and proceed to check out what was on veetle.com. As I quite frequently do I decided to see what cartoons were showing and scrolled down until I saw a showed that I was not familiar with. The show I found was Thundercats (2011) version. I was so intrigued by the show that I new immediately how i was going to spend the rest of Saturday (or atleast until 6:30). As a result I can now proudly say that I watched all 26 episodes of the first season of the Thundercats (2011). Immediately I was impressed by the darker tone of the remake when compared to the version from the 80’s. Personally, I am always a huge fans darker versions of any show and prefer as much blood gore and violence as possible for animated cartoon. Alas, as this show is primarily targeted towards kids there was the not blood and gore that I would love to see (ah well). The story begins with the destruction of Thundera by the Lizard Army led by the evil sorcerer Mumm-Ra. The only survivors of the destruction of Thundera are Lion-O, Tygra (adopted brother), and Cheetara ( title IX cliched female character). Lion-O is the heir to the throne and is understandably pissed that his father as well as everyone he cares about is now gone. Lion-O is the owner of the Sword of Omens and one of the stones that is key to Mumm-Ra plan for world domination. He and his crew find two orphaned cats, Wilykat and Wilykit, because every renegade band of survivors needs atleast two cute little kids. They also find find Panthro (voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson), a straight up G and all around pimp that no one wants to piss off. The story unfolds with many of the same cliches of a lot of anime cartoons. Protagonist possess a great power (the greatest of which is making friends), typical love triangle (tygra, cheetara, and Lion-O), there is the never ending adventure to stop the bad buy before he destroys the Earth, and the played out conclusion on episode 26 where all of Lion-O’s friends that he has made throughout the series help him defeat Mumm-Ra for the time being.  And that pretty much sums up the entire 26 episode season. Several thing stuck out for me that may be subjects for another post. I could help but notice the amount of speciesism that took. On every episode it seems likely every species believed itself to be far superior to every other species. I also could help but notice the character of Pumyra, who has to be one of the most ungrateful women of all time. My dude, Lion-O saves hers at least 300 times in five episodes and then she has the audacity to betray him in the waning moment of the season. That ain’t right.  But alas both of those are thoughts for a different day.

I will preface this section by commenting that prior to Saturday morning I recently finished writing my 20 page exegesis paper on Job chapters 6-7. Major themes and motifs from the book of Job were still pretty fresh in my head. While I was watching episode 21 “The Birth of Blades,” I began to thinking about what made Mumma-Ra so evil. I question why he is considered the proverbial bad guy of the series. I mean I knew that he destroyed and entire race and planned on world domination. But then again didn’t the cat creatures do something similar with the Sword of Omens to be the superior species to every other animal humanoid creature on the show. On episode 21 we learn that the Sword of Omens was actually created w to help Lion-O’s ancestor Leo defeat Mumm- Ra’s blade the Sword of Plun- Darr. Leo was Mumm- Ra most trusted subordinant before his betrayal. Mumm- Ra emphasizes to Leo the fact that he intends on restoring order to universe. He claims that the universe is a chaotic place and thus it is his job to restore order. This is all good for Leo until the destruction of star system that included three planets with sentient life forms. This raises questions about what it means to have a universe filled with chaos.

Clearly the line between chaos and destruction was crossed from Leo’s perspective when life forms were destroyed. Thus, Mumma- Ra is associated with death and destruction and not the restoration of order to a chaotic situation. Mumma- Ra becomes the symbol of evil because he has taken it upon himself to implement the natural order of the universe. His problem is that he is the only one who decides what is order and what is chaos in a given situation. Our understanding of what it means to have chaos and order in the universe is limited by the social realities that we experience. This is to say how we define chaos and order is based on the way we choose to experience the universe. For Mumm- Ra his reality involves him being the ultimate ruler of chaos and order in the universe. I probably have a lot more to say about this particular issue but I have yet to flesh out the finer points of this argument and may continue this line of thought in future post. I guess my main thought is that we commonly have such rigid constrains on terms like order and chaos, however, we often times refuse to acknowledge our own limitations of our understanding of these words.