Archive for October, 2012

Week 11 Journal Post

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

One aspect of this week’s readings that I found interesting was the information about naturalization. It was interesting to read that even at a time of extreme racism against African-Americans, they were allowed to be naturalized citizens, but Asians could not. Another interesting point was about the “loyalty tests,” and how “the loyalty of Germans and Italians could be ascertained, but because of the alien character of the Japanese race no loyalty tests administered to them could be reliable.” (207-208 The “domino theory” was also an interesting argument about “Chinese exclusion rather than on racial or cultural unassimilability” (209).

The Escobar chapter was also very interesting. I had never heard or read about the zoot riots in 1943 against Mexican-Americans. The Los Angeles police department clearly did not uphold the law impartially, but based their judgements on prejudices. These riots show an important aspect of life during the war. People were predisposed to their negative opinions based on stereotypes. For example, Escobar says that the policemen beat up the zoot wearing Mexican-American men because they believed that they were more prone to violent crime. However, Escobar later says that the police department did this because they failed to find the real culprits of the violent crime, so resorted to the Mexican-Americans. Escobar says that the World War II era was the first time that the police department linked crime to race. This is an interesting point, as the same concept happened to the Japanese-Americans, they were arrested and detained simply because of their race, not because they had actually committed a crime. (266)

Week 11 Primary Source

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

Image, Source: intermediary roll film

This photograph is a war time food demonstration. This was for people to learn about ration spending and food conservation.

Rosener, Ann, Library of Congress, March 1943. Accessed October 31, 2012.


Monday, October 29th, 2012

In this weeks readings, one aspect that I found very interesting was the discussion of urban space versus domestic space. The reading in chapter 1 discussed how during the war the technology for transportation advanced drastically, allowing for more time to commute. It discussed the transportation in a linear sense, that on one side of the commuter line is the work to help aid the war. On the other side of the line is the domestic aspect. People enjoyed their privacy and in this time we start to see the in suburban living.

Another interesting topic that was discussed in chapter 1, was how the war affected family formation. After Pearl Harbor, couples got married at twice the normal rate, which is an interesting statistic. Also, the way that new brides would build a “home” that could fit a few suitcases or trunks because people could not afford a typical house. Another interesting point was the merging of the state and the film industry. It is interesting how the state would use film as a propaganda tool during the war. Even today, the Department of Defense gives money to films that are considered to be in line with American interests. Another interesting point about the film industry is that people saw the rise in autonomous women in the films, which coincided with the more independent working women of the day.

World War II also saw the rise in the working class. The working class did a lot to further the war effort, both fighting in Europe and on the home front. The rise of Hitler in Germany led American leaders to rethink the liberal political agenda here. Overall, I thought the reading for the week was very insightful into American culture during World War II.  (296)

Primary Source

Monday, October 29th, 2012

Dancing girls dressed as Uncle Sam perform in front of a large “Buy War Stamps and Bonds” sign.

This picture is of women dressed as Uncle Sam in front of a sign to buy war bonds. I thought this was interesting, because it shows the immense propaganda that was used during the war in the home front. Accessed October 28, 2012.

“United We Win”

Monday, October 29th, 2012

This is one of many posters used in campaigns to fight against discrimination and segregation against African Americans.  Although campaigns like these tried to boost African American morale, racism and segregation continued to be a factor in America during WWII as the reading this week pointed out.

United We Win [World War II Poster] (1943)

Week 10 Journal Response

Monday, October 29th, 2012

The readings this week focused on how Americans were more or less affected by the war.  The Duis chapter one reading gave a very good view of what it was like to be in Chicago at the time of the war.  One of the parts that stuck out to me was the privacy issue which is what the chapter focused on.  One part said that the less money you had, the less privacy you had which related to the poor being in the streets and public places while better off families had a house for privacy.  The reading specifies defense measures were taken in Chicago that did not allow many families any privacy. Agencies were hire to do background checks on citizens.  The reading about the loss of privacy reminded me of the Patriot Act.  The war films chapter by May was also interesting.  The movie broken down the most in the chapter was Casablanca.  In this movie the main character faces hardship and must go on fighting even thought the love of his life has to go back to her husband that she had presumed was dead.  Another part of the film talked about ethnic and racial motives in movies.  In the movie Bataan an African American is seen in a platoon with white soldiers which was said to inspire African Americans that change was coming and segregation was going to end.  In contrast, the next chapter showed that it was still rough for African Americans in America.  An example in the chapter was the Detroit Riot where even Italians who had been discriminated against joined other whites to become “American.”  The last assigned chapter was a very eye opening reading in the activities of single women during WWII.  It also mentioned that single women usually lost their job after the war while married women were in a better position than single women to keep their jobs.

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How must have African Americans felt when they were assigned to segregated units in the army when the movies had portrayed military units differently?

Extra Credit Journal

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

Dr. Heather Thompson’s talk about mass incarceration in the United States highlighted significant problems with the way this country approaches the punishment of criminals. Thompson asserts that the crime wave was a result of the crime war. She says that mass incarceration only creates more problems for the country. She provides statistics that validate her argument. Her topics include the mass incarceration’s impact on the economy, politics, urban life, children, and schools. Throughout the talk she asserts that mass incarceration was the Civil Rights problem of the twenty-first century. She often references Reconstruction to provide examples of how the problems of today mirror those following the Civil War. Tonight I learned most about private interests in mass incarceration. I was previously unaware that some prisons force labor so that companies can benefit from not only cheap, but totally free labor. At the end of the talk I wanted to ask her how she would respond to Rudy Giuliani and his “broken-window policing” of the nineties. Rudy Giuliani was able to clean up New York and bring businesses and affluent people back to New York City by being tough on crime. I understand this is a singular argument but I would like to know her thoughts.

Civil Rights Journal

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

The talk tonight by Dr. Heather Thompson was very interesting. She was a very well informed speaker and I learned a lot from her talk. Her point about mass incarceration leading to more poverty and thus, more incarceration was the most interesting part of the talk in my opinion. Racial inequality is a major civil rights issue in this country today, and Dr. Thompson did a fantastic job laying out the scenario as to why the cycle of violence and incarceration continues.

It is terribly sad that the government continues to target mostly black areas which obviously affects the community negatively. The statistics that she provided about the chance of people having a life within the prison system was astounding. She said that approximately 1/19 young African-American women will continue their life within the prison system, whereas about 1/118 young white women will. This racial gap is astounding and frightening. Whether or not we have crime problem in this country is debatable, but the United States definitely has a racial and gender gap problem which needs to be addressed.

Right now our economy is struggling, and with this racial gap and with a high incarceration rate, this problem will not get any better. Dr. Thompson’s talk definitely addressed this issue. I thought her powerpoint presentation was extremely organized and easy to follow. It was engaging and laid out the problems facing the civil rights issue that lies within the justice system. The fact that she referred frequently to 1865, with the end of slavery filled in a lot of questions that I am sure a lot of people came in with. People today think of the prison system, and unfortunately think of the racial inequality that our prisons are filled with. However, we can understand these questions through history and understand why policies are the way they are, which does not mean they are acceptable.

The concept of “million dollar blocks” was very interesting. I have never heard that term and it was fascinating, but at the same time saddening. The fact that literally whole neighborhoods do not exist anymore due to heavy policing and heavy incarceration is almost unbelievable. Also, the discussion about “prison gerrymandering” was very interesting. The fact that most prisons are in predominately white rural areas, so the prisoners votes count toward that district is a blatant violation against democracy. The political discussion made a lot of sense. No one wants to admit the issue because no one wants to seem weak on crime. Disenfranchisement is also a major civil rights issue. The fact that 34% of black people in Iowa can not vote is astounding.

Dr. Thompson’s argument and her lay out of the vicious cycle that people in the prison system face opened my eyes to her argument: that racial inequality in the prison system is the biggest civil rights issue of the 21st century. Many problems stem from high rates of incarceration, such as poverty, more crime, orphans, and joblessness, and these problems will not be fixed unless we reform the prison and justice system in the United States. Overall, I thought the debate was very interesting and opened my eyes to all the problems that the United States faces today and in the future.


Civil Rights Journal

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

Tonight’s lecture, “Prisons and the Politics of Punitive Justice Policy: Civil Rights and the 21st Century”, given by Dr. Heather Thompson was by far one of the best lectures I have heard. She engaged the audience and kept the flow of the lecture consistent while providing a great amount of information in a short time. I’m the first to admit that Civil Rights is not a topic that strikes my interest, but her lecture was an eye opener and sparked an interest in the subject. There were many topics that she covered that I would have never classified as something that falls under “Civil Rights” and I definitely came away with a better understanding and greater respect for the subject.

I did not think that Civil Rights were still a prevalent issue and that they are tied closely to current issues such as poverty, education, and financial status. Dr. Thompson pin pointed mass incarceration as the new social problem in today’s Civil Rights issues. After she provided sobering statics the idea became clearer. The fact that in 2008 there were 2,424,279 people incarcerated is unbelievable, and even more shocking is that there are more blacks in prison, than those enslaved in 1850. As Dr. Thompson mentioned Civil Rights started to become a major issue following the Civil War and progressed through history.

Her ideas such as, “Criminalization of Urban Space” and “Million Dollar Blocks” made Civil Rights issues in relation to mass incarceration make more sense and realistic in today’s society. With urban areas being policed more heavily, prosecution rises with laws changing and things becoming illegal that were not illegal in the past. The Civil Rights movement in the 1960s brought on even more issues with protests being seen as crime. President Lyndon B. Johnson created even more trouble with his “war on crime” and “LEAA” the Law Enforcement Assistance Act of 1965, which came before the crime wave. Changes made to sentencing laws increase jail time by 80%.

The most fascinating aspect of Dr. Thompson’s lecture was the fact that large name brand companies are branching out to prisons for work. Especially companies like Dell, Victoria’s Secret and McDonald’s. When I think of work being done in prison the first thing that comes to mind is license plates, but Dr. Thompson blew that out of the water when she stated that today, 600,000 traditional jobs are held by inmates.


Heather Thompson

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

Heather Thompson gave a fascinating talk tonight regarding incarceration as the root of many civil rights problems today. The statistics she gave were daunting. I knew that there was inequality in prisons but it was a little sad to know that 1 in 9 young African American men are in prison. It’s shocking actually. Race has so much to do with it, yet law enforcement swears there is no such thing as racial profiling. Something is wrong here. Inner cities are ‘ground zero’ of these issues. Thompson noted that Lyndon Johnson essentially started it all with the signing of the Law Enforcement Administration Act, and the federal government started funneling money to cities whose crime rate is high. Money provides incentive to have higher crime rates, so people began to categorize crime differently. Incarceration is such a vicious cycle. Cities are so heavily policed that no one is left. There is a massive orphaning of children because of prisons. My mom works as a P.E. teacher at an elementary school and has had numerous students tell her “my mommy’s in prison”. I don’t know for sure, but I feel like that would definitely affect a child’s behavior as well, maybe getting them into trouble within the school system because of them acting out. Thompson also discussed public health, which I am really interested in. I had never heard of the New York-Rikers Island TB outbreak in the 1980s but it’s scary that diseases that spread easily in confined spaces (i.e. prisons) can also begin to come in contact with the general public. Of course, it seems the worst violation is use of prison labor and paying prisoners cents per hour. Thompson did a really nice job tying this issue to minimum wage and why the public also receives low wages. While I am not sure where I stand on having murderers loose in the United States (I watch way too many crime shows for that) Thompson definitely convinced me to reevaluate how I feel about incarceration. It seems prisons haven’t fixed much, as there are still plenty of crimes (heinous or not) committed every day.

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