May 2, 2007

Coffman Union Observations

For this assignment I decided to go and observe the Black Student Union (BSU) room on the second floor of Coffman. It’s a pretty decent sized room with an office for the board members. Today the lights are off and there are grey skies outside, which gives the room a very laid back mellowed out feel. The color scheme around here is black and white, with black furniture, white walls, and a grey carpet. There are also brown and tan coaches for students to get comfortable on. Whenever I go into the BSU there are usually students in there and they usually look familiar because the black student community is not that big. Everyone who comes in usually greets the other people already there with a hello, a hug, or just a friendly smile, depending on how well they know one another. I noticed that a lot of hugging takes place when someone first comes in or when someone is leaving, especially if that person is popular.
The atmosphere is scholastic, artistic, and casual all at the same time. Upon first entering the room there is a table with flyers for different upcoming black student events. There are also flyers for other thing such as breast cancer awareness, AIDS/HIV information, safe sex brochures, volunteering opportunities, etc. One can’t help but notice the candy dish full of condoms either. As you get further into the room your attention is caught by this beautiful mural on one of the walls. At the top there is a dark sky, and top center there is the continent of Africa painted in gold surrounded by a circular black background. It is like the sun, and there are five rays extending from it that make up the rest of the mural. In each ray there is a portion of African American history portrayed. The first ray depicts Egypt, which represents the success and rich culture of some African countries before colonization and the slave trade. The next ray depicts the slave trade triangle. The third ray depicts slavery in America, with slaves working in a cotton field, and a man hanging from a noose. The fourth ray depicts the civil rights and black power movements as well as the birth of hip hop culture, and the last ray depicts educated African Americans returning back to Africa to help the continent. The rest of the room has some African art scattered through out it and the walls have different portraits of famous influential black people.
As you move further into the room there are computers long the wall, a table to study at, a big comfortable coach, and a television with cable. Students are usually on the computers checking email, doing homework, or just browsing the web and listening to music. Others congregate around the T.V., and even though there is a “No eating or drinking in this area? sign there are always people eating in front of the T.V. In fact, I noticed that they changed the sign to “Please clean up after your self?. Usually when I come in here the T.V. is tuned into the black entertainment television channel (BET), and today it was as well. I sat on the coach and watched T.V. and listened to the students as they came and went. People were laughing and joking around on one side of the room, while some other upper classmen were having a serious discussion about the up coming 2008 presidential elections and the candidates. Some one was playing music in the board room, and some of the board members were dancing and having a good time. A few people were eating in front of the T.V., which made me kind of hungry after a while. There were also some people at the computers quietly doing their own thing. It was just another typical day in the BSU.

April 11, 2007

Advertising and People of Color

This article and our class discussion make me wonder whether or not advertising is to blame, or society is to blame for offensive ads. The advertising company, like any other company, is in the money making business. Advertisers want people to connect or relate to the ads so that they will pay attention to the product that is being advertised. They need to catch our attention some how, usually through humor. They also need to catch the majority’s attention. Back in 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s America was not very inclusive of the minorities living in the country. Advertisers were on a mission to target the majority of the population, which happened to be European American. In order to get the majority to buy products advertisers had to make their ads appealing to their target audience. So was racism appealing? Maybe appealing is not the right word, but racism was acceptable. The stereotypical images of minorities in advertising during these times were acceptable and probably humorous. I’m not afraid to admit that I found some of the ads that we read about in this article humorous. So does that make me a racist or ignorant?
When it comes to stereotypes, its easy to laugh at them if they are not related to the group of people you belong to. I honestly don’t think the Advertisement companies thought they were doing anything wrong until the groups they were portraying began to speak out about it. As for society, its almost the same story. After decades of acceptable racism and segregation why would these advertisements bother the majority? An interesting fact mentioned in the article was that the majority was more willing to accept black models with lighter skin than black models with darker skin. The idea that lighter skin was better or more beautiful had been enforced for decades. It’s not that society or the Advertisement companies were evil, they were just ignorant. If society had not been so screwed up, the ads would not have been so screwed up either. When I think about ads today, I think it’s safe to say that we have come a very long way. I can’t remember the last time I saw a commercial I thought, “that must have offended someone out there?. Well… maybe there was that one Jimmy Jones commercial a while back, but other than that I think it’s been ok.

March 9, 2007

People Like Us

People Like Us was a fun movie to watch. I liked the fact that there was commentary from different people from all walks of life on the issue of class in America. I find it funny that for some reason people do not want to acknowledge the fact that there are classes in America. The segment on how everyone wants to be considered middle class illustrated this that fact. People with millions of dollars and people making twenty thousand dollars a year all want to consider them selves “middle class?. I can understand why someone who has a low income may not want to consider them selves lower class or less than the average American. However, I did not understand why the rich upper class people did not want to admit that they were upper class. There were some people like the “Wasp? who did take pride in being in the upper class. Then there were the upper class people who seemed to be in denial. Perhaps they do not really understand what middle class is. Or maybe they just don’t want to be put on a pedestal. Everyone wants to be a part of the mainstream, and right now the mainstream is middle class.
Another segment that I liked was the analogy between class and tribes. When you think about a tribe you think about a group of people who live together and have a certain way of life. In the film there was a list of different things that determine what tribe you fit into and ultimately the class you fit into. Money was not the only determining factor of class. Your tribe depends on what you do for a living, where you live, your education, how you were brought up, your personal style, your taste in material things, the possessions you have accumulated, and even what you eat. All these things create similarities between you and your tribe mates. Your tribe mates are the people you feel the most comfortable around because those are the people that you have things in common with. It’s always awkward being surrounded by people who you hardly have anything in common with. It’s natural to want to be around people that are like you, nobody wants to feel alone in a sea of people. If you try to mix in with another tribe and you don’t know how to blend in you will stick out like a sore thumb.

February 28, 2007

Class depicted in the Media

Depictions of class in films and on TV shows affect people’s opinions about people from classes other than their own by reinforcing stereotypes about class. When class is depicted in the media it is depicted in generalized ways. In the media, people in certain classes act and look a certain way. We see upper class people depicted as intelligent people who speak well, have a lot of material things, and dress fashionably. Middle class people are depicted as hard workers who are making a reasonable living. Middle class people are ordinary or average. They are not extreme, they are just average. Lower class people are depicted as pitiful people who need a helping hand. They are barely making it or not making it at all. They are unkempt and sometimes depicted as unhealthy. These are just a few examples of the stereotypes the media uses for different classes. By reinforcing these stereotypes the media makes people have a certain opinion about people in these classes. If you don’t interact with real people in different classes it is easy to just go by what the media gives you, and what the media gives you are stereotypes or generalizations.
In the media the class stereotypes also come along with different connotations. In the article we read the connotation that went with upper class was positive and the connotation that went with lower class was negative. As I read this I disagreed, perhaps this is because of fact that this essay was written in 1992. Today when I see upper class people in the media there are all sorts of negative connotations that go along with being upper class. They are depicted as snobby or selfish inconsiderate people who only care about money. It is the middle class that has the positive connotations attached to them. Perhaps this is because the majority of the viewers are middle class and the media wants to appeal to its viewers.

February 14, 2007

Stereotypes and Racist

I found the essay from the text and the article from the Minnesota Daily very interesting. The two are connected because the media parades many stereotypes that influence the prejudices people have. The surveys that Gerbner took are evidence that the media influences the way people think about society and the world. Unfortunately some people believe what they see on T.V. even though the media uses extreme examples of real life as entertainment. It is hard for people to distinguish between what they see on T.V. and what really goes on in real life. When the majority of women, men, and people of different ethnic groups are constantly being placed in the same stereotypical roll it is no surprise that some people believe that’s how society is in the real world. It is an ignorant view of the world and ignorance leads to prejudice and racism. Ignorance, or a lack of knowledge, is the main force behind prejudice and racism. People think they know everything about another person based on their skin color, sex, sexuality, or age even though they have no idea who that person is or what they are about. They make assumptions based on stereotypes that are all over the media. It just so happens that almost all of these stereotypes are very negative views of certain groups of people. These negative views get ingrained into society and influence how we see people who are different than us. I agree with the author of the Minnesota Daily article, everyone is a racist, whether they want to admit it or not. Being in denial about the fact that we have racist tendencies won’t help solve the problem; the problem needs to be acknowledged first.

February 7, 2007


I found the “reaccentualization? portion of this essay pretty interesting. I agree with Volosinov’s argument that “words do not have predetermined, fixed meaning; rather, the ‘meaning of a word is determined entirely by its context…? Language is extremely flexible, anyone can take a word or a phrase and bend its meaning into what they want it to mean. The meaning of a word or phrase can also be changed by the other words surrounding it, or the context it is placed in. As I read this portion of the article on reaccentualization I thought about how context can be more than just the idea that is formed around one word or phrase by other words. Context can be a situation, a place, a time period, and so on and so forth. For example, if there are two people playing a game a chess and one person says “I am going to kick your butt?, everyone knows that no one is going to literally get their butt kicked. In this case the situation is the context for this phrase, and the situation happens to be two people playing a friendly match of chess. Now on the other hand, if a very angry person screams “I am going to kick your butt? at another person who looks equally angry or extremely scared one might take the phrase literally because of the context, or the situation the phrase is being used in.
What I found interesting was how the author implied that skin color can be context as well. Certain words or phrases coming from a person of one color have a different meaning if they come from a person of a different color. Do these “white accents? and “black accents? really exist? I personally believe they do. Some would argue that it is “racist? to make such a generalization. I guess it comes down to how one defines racism. I won’t deny the fact that it is a pretty big generalization to put such diverse groups of people into two distinct categories, but just because it is a generalization doesn’t mean that it holds no truth. I think it makes sense that hearing something and then seeing who said it changes the meaning of what you heard. Being able to see who said the phrase allows you to interpret it in a certain way. Of course everything doesn’t come down to looks, but looks do play a big role in our world. We cant pretend that skin color has no influence when it obviously does.

January 31, 2007

Shitty First Drafts

I really enjoyed reading the article on “Shitty First Drafts? because I found it very helpful. When ever I have had a writing assignment I have always had trouble getting started. I would sit at the computer and stare at the little black line blinking endlessly on the blank word document thinking about how to start my paper. The reason I could not just allow myself to start writing is because I was starting my papers only hours before they were due. I did not feel like I had time to write something that I was not going to use, I did not have time to write something shitty. Those were some pretty stressful situations I put myself in. I had all this pressure on myself to write something good the first time around because I did not give myself time for a second draft. After reading this article however, I realize that if I had just started off with writing a shitty first draft I probably would have gotten my papers done sooner. The amount of time I spent trying to write a perfect paper in my mind before actually typing it out could have been spent writing a shitty first draft and then pulling a better second draft out of that.
I liked the way the author described shitty first drafts as the child’s draft that you let run all over the place before you start trying to shape it. It almost sounds like she is talking about free writing, but there is a difference. To me, free writing is just writing whatever comes to your mind with out second guessing or judging yourself. You let your thoughts about a subject or object spill onto the page without worrying about organization, grammar, or spelling. A first draft however is a little more structured and a little more focused. For the first draft you usually have a thesis and some idea of where you want your paper to go, but it is not set in stone yet. I think that it is important not to limit yourself to one road on the first draft. Let the first draft run around a little bit before you put a leash on it. The author says, “Very few writers really know what they are doing until they have done it?. I realize that I just need to write a thesis statement, start writing a body, maybe come up with something for an introduction, and get my conclusion down in front of me before I can actually start to make something out of any of it. This is not an “easier said than done? situation, it is an “easier written than thought about? kind of thing.

January 24, 2007

"Ways of Seeing"

John Berger’s “Ways of Seeing? had some interesting ideas and opinions in it. He touched on a few different topics that were all related in one way or another. In the end I think the essay can be split into two main topics, how we see the world as individuals, and how we see the world through imagery. Two people who are looking at one object may have completely different things going on in their minds because what they see is affected by what they know. Berger defines dialogue as a tool we use to explain how we see things to others. However, imagery is also a language which people use in an attempt to explain how they see things to others. People are able to recreate or reproduce objects, people, and places they have seen with their own eyes or in their own mind for other people to physically see. The sad and unique thing is that no two people will interpret an image exactly the same way. I think it is sad because the true purpose of an image may never be known unless the artist communicates that purpose to its audience through written language. For example, the only person who knows the true purpose of the Mona Lisa is Leonardo himself because he created the image. The unique thing is that one image can mean a million different things to a million different people because of the diversity of interpretation. One idea that is turned into an image has the power to spark many other ideas in other people. Imagery allows us to see things that we would never be able to see in person on our own in many cases, it is a way of sharing our world. Berger says that what we see is affected by what we know, but I also believe that what we know is affected by what we see.