On Romanticization Versus Advocacy for Incarcerated Individuals

Since we first encountered it a few class sessions ago, I’ve been captivated by Mariame Kaba’s essay “Free Us All,” and its wariness of building movements around individuals. Rather, Kaba cites the #FreeBresha and #FreeMarissa movements as being successful precisely because organizers took “great pains to understand that each survivor is one among thousands of Black women and girls who have been and continue to be criminalized for trying to survive.” Collective defense is a critical component in Kaba’s call for prison abolition. Continue reading “On Romanticization Versus Advocacy for Incarcerated Individuals”

Hurricane Iniki: Look at All Those Chickens

(Blog title reference)

By Jenna Lawson, Jonathan Kalman, Aidan Koch, Madi Bussmann, Clio Lieberman, & Cameron Rustay

In Hawaiian, the word “Iniki” has a somewhat contradictory meaning. Some categorize it on a surface level as meaning “strong and piercing wind.” However, a deeper look into Hawaiian language dictionaries turns up the definition “to pinch, nip; sharp and piercing, as wind or pangs of love.” Likening piercing winds to the pangs of love presents an interesting dilemma about how to reckon with Iniki’s legacy and perception among those who experienced it. The fact that there was an upsurge in babies given this name in the wake of the hurricane further entangles the presence of love and joy with the destruction inherent when a hurricane makes landfall. Continue reading “Hurricane Iniki: Look at All Those Chickens”

Congratulations, I Played Myself

I hope readers of this post will indulge my flippant reference to DJ Khaled. Upon completing my essay on Saturday, I inadvertantly got to experience both a cycle of memory and forgetting as well as violence as the performance of waste. I saved my essay three times and even created a new tag to find it more easily. When I went to submit my essay on Canvas, it was nowhere to be found. Completely gone. I was initially in disbelief as I calmly searched every corner of my computer’s memory before I came to accept that no amount of configuration would bring back the labor I expended on this assignment.

I then continued my performance by including Beth in my violent performance of waste. Roach says that violence requires an audience of some kind because it is intrinsically performative, and so it did in my case as Beth and I were forced to respond to  (Roach 41). Through a desperate and hastily-constructed email, I attempted to illicit sympathy for my plight and acquire an extension, even though the last thing I wanted was for this performance of waste to include any more of Beth’s or my time as part of its collateral damage.

Once I accepted that rewriting the essay would be my only path forward, I found myyself belonging to the cycle of memory and forgetting. Even though I had just read through my paper multiple times, the prospect of recreating my original paper exactly seemed impossible (and indeed it was). I worried that sense the original material I created was no longer accessible to me, my overall potential for succeeding would somehow be diminished, even though writing a paper for the second time should be a much easier task. In my rewrite, my memory was compromised by the performative violence of losing my essay. I altered, expanded upon, or omitted entire sections of my argument from the first version of my essay to reflect my current mental state and the way I was processing the assignment the second time through. I definitiely still consider this experience a performance of waste, but as Roach suggested, this waste was not senseless (Roach 41). It served a purpose in that it forced me to process and understand Roach’s point in a personal setting and reflect on the assignment in a completely different frame of mind, which was still very much a valuable exercise. It also forced me to switch my writing approach to Google Docs because of its automatic save feature so that I never have to endure this again.

We Have to Talk About Ray Nagin

When Beth suggested the we look into former New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin’s fate post “When the Levees Broke,” I felt a sense of dreadful anticipation. I knew corruption was the inevitable conclusion conclusion to his story, but after listening to his charismatic interview juxtaposed with heartfelt interviews with survivors of Katrina who spoke of loss and devastation, I felt more upset than I expected. I’ll do my best to summarize concisely. Ray Nagin tooks bribes and personal payout in exchange for awarding rebuilding contracts to large corporations in the wake of Katrina’s destruction of New Orleans. His corruption apparently started before Katrina hit, and his sentencing began in 2014.

Political editor of the alternative magazine Gambit originally excused Nagin’s behavior. He posited that the all-encompassing hurricane could crush anyone’s resolve, but he soon amended his view of the former governor, saying, “He did not enjoy the work of being the mayor. He only enjoyed being the mayor.” This same article, provided by USA Today, revealed that there was a deep sense of betrayal from New Orleaneans who believed Nagin to be the one politician who was incorruptible.

In researching articles that ranged in details from an extremely detailed account of what Nagin would experienced when he surrendered on his first day at the prison to announcements that a federal judge agreed that he was very poor and needed to be assigned a public defender. The question I kept coming back to was overly simple: What does this mean in the context of our class? Is Nagin an effigy? A scapegoat? A pariah? The conversations surrounding his conviction were certainly a purge of violent sentiment. There was a sense that a wrong had been righted, but only through the net effect of causing pain to people who had already seen too much of it.

Ray Nagin was not the only one at fault for the devastation and lack of quick and effective response to Hurricane Katrina, but he paid one of the highest prices for his misdeeds out of any government official. In some ways, his conviction was the closest government concession that its response to Katrina was extremely flawed and full of oversight and personal greed. His incarceration was a public sacrifice, satiating New Orleaneans’ need to see some consequences. To do this, however, the cycle of remembering and forgetting presented by Roach dictated that those feelings of being foresaken by one’s own government had to be dredged up again. Nagin’s incarceration doesn’t invoke a feeling of satisfaction for me. In the face of all of the insurance claims that went unfulfilled and the FEMA trailers that sat empty for months after the storm, it feels futile and ineffective.

Some Thoughts on Modern Indentured Servitude

Hello, everyone! Congratulations on making it almost to the end of the semester. I’ve been thinking a lot about sharecropping, company towns, and other methods of debt slavery-esque practices in recent history. More specifically, I’m thinking about these concepts in the context of property theft and alternative labor markets like the drug trade, especially in the context of Parable of the Sower and episodes of This Old House. Continue reading “Some Thoughts on Modern Indentured Servitude”

Mr. Blandings’ Dream House and Aunt Jemima

The end of Mr. Blandings Builds his Dream House filled me with a rage I did not anticipate. The Blandings’ maid Gussie ends up saving the day with a slogan for Mr. Blandings’ WHAM advertisement without knowing it, saying “If you ain’t eating WHAM, you ain’t eating ham!” The movie then ends with an advertisement of Gussie’s photo with her slogan under it. Thanks to Gussie’s work, Blandings is not fired and he and his family can continue to live out their American dream in their beautiful new home.

Continue reading “Mr. Blandings’ Dream House and Aunt Jemima”

Invisible Privilege: Wealth Gaps

Watching Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House during class yesterday, I found Blandings’s inconveniences and dissatisfactions full of deeply unappreciative and bourgeois undertones. What spoke to me specifically was the casual mention of government bonds as a method of buying their dream house and how the accumulation of wealth is heavily informed by race. The following statistics come from this article.

Continue reading “Invisible Privilege: Wealth Gaps”

The Origins of the Housing Crisis

As a History major, I have taken extensive coursework on structural inequalities experienced by black Americans. I’d like to take the time here to share a brief summary of what I’ve learned. All of this information comes either from in-class sessions with Professors Mapes and Crosby or from Thomas Sugrue’s book “The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit,” which I would highly recommend for those looking to contextualize racial inequalities in the modern age.

Continue reading “The Origins of the Housing Crisis”