Category Archives: readings

Hatred in Speech

 

In his article “‘Political Correctness’ has become a code word for hate,” Larry Summers argues that Donald Trump and his campaign have transformed political correctness into a term of hatred that has resulted in violence and fear across the country. Summers believes that while previously the term was used to argue over the appropriateness of “Halloween costumes” and “sombrero parties,” it has now become much more than that. I agree with Summers that Trump’s rhetoric and his words towards marginalized groups have stepped over the line, and it is no longer up for debate on whether or not his lines are acceptable. Additionally, since he won the election, there has been “an upsurge” of “hateful incidents,” and Summers argues that this is an effect of Trump’s language and hateful speech. Moving forward, individuals need to acknowledge what political correctness truly means and discover how to prevent hateful words from turning into actions.

A political cartoon from Ben Garrison portraying Donald Trump killing the
A political cartoon from Ben Garrison portraying Donald Trump killing the “political correctness” dragon. In the background, Jeb Bush is shown as a princess calling Trump “sexist” and a “big bully.”

Summers claims that Trump’s version of political correctness is used as an excuse for individuals to use offensive and hate-filled speech. Summers opens up by stating, “I will never again use the term ‘political correctness’” (Summers). This is crucial because he then continues to mention how he was once critical of the term and believed it was often overused or has “run amok” (Summers). This shows how Summers is not bias and must truly believe the meaning of the term has changed if he declares that he refuses to ever use it again. Furthermore, Trump has isolated and insulted women, people with disabilities, Muslims, and Mexicans with his words, and he has yet to condemn the KKK’s support for him (Summers). His words makes Summers and myself worried that people will infer that since the President-Elect can feel and say these things, that it is acceptable and excusable since it is associated with political correctness, and the President-Elect himself. If the President can say this, why can’t every citizen do the same? Summers does an excellent job analyzing why political correctness does not have the same definition that it use to, however he does not emphasize enough how this hateful language also becomes normalized. I have noticed in my own life how nobody seems to blink an eye anymore when they hear offensive language towards women or minorities; they simply make a reference to how we live in “Trump’s America” now. Individuals seem to be accepting this new way of life and language, and it makes me question how much more this hate will spread before more people begin taking a stand to stop it.

Another political cartoon, this time by Ruben Bolling, criticizing what Trump has said about minorities and comparing him to what
Another political cartoon, this time by Ruben Bolling, criticizing what Trump has said about minorities and comparing him to what “Trump’s America” might look like compared to the past.

In addition to the harsh words spoken since the election results, Summers comments on the outbreak of hate crimes and the fear people have begun to feel for the present and the future. He states that women, African Americans, LGBTQ+, Muslim, Hispanic, and disabled students “fear that the basic security and acceptance on which they relied is at risk” (Summers). In my opinion, it is not surprising that individuals are in a constant state of fear when they realize how many people voted for someone who has said such shameful things. Additionally, Summers tells stories about his children’s’ schools; there have been swastikas painted on walls and “black freshmen were sent emails with pictures depicting lynchings” (Summers). These are no longer just words, but actions as well. It is scary what people are feeling and seeing and I have personally found it difficult to understand and sympathize with those who voted for President-Elect Trump. Summers explains it best by stating, “Winning an election does not entitle one to upend our basic values” (Summers). Furthermore, it is indisputable that Donald Trump will be inaugurated on January 20th, but there is no reason why every American should  not be willing and ready to stand up towards the hatred that this country does not represent.

 

Influencing Students and Their Learning Based on Landscapes: An Analysis of Scholl and Gulwadi

In “Recognizing Campus Landscapes and Learning Spaces,” Kathleen G. Scholl and Gowri Gulwadi recognize that students learn in areas beyond the classroom and colleges need to provide different environments in order for students to create the skills they will need in college and in the workforce. The article emphasizes how while classrooms are necessities for professors to properly lecture and present their lessons, there is still a need for campuses to have areas besides the buildings filled with classrooms. Students are evolving with society. As new learning techniques and technology continue to be at the forefront of education, college students are eager to take advantage of these varying opportunities. However, in many cases, it is not possible for individuals to explore all of these desired opportunities in the classroom alone. Whether it is the library, or simply a campus quad, every location is crucial to improving a student’s knowledge and expanding their learning capabilities, as the article states, “the entire campus, including its open spaces, must be perceived as a holistic learning space.” In other words, every location on campus should be a safe spot for students to learn. Individuals should be able to leave the classroom and know they will have additional areas to improve on their studies and thoughts.

Additionally, the article goes in depth on direct and involuntary attention and how colleges should create and improve their campuses to provide areas to cater to these concepts. The article describes direct attention as the “ability to sustain focus” or to not get distracted and pay attention to your surroundings. Being able to completely focus and forget about any distractions is a crucial skill not only in college, but also in the workforce. Employers will hire individuals who can handle complicated tasks on time and without errors. In contrast to direct attention, it is necessary for environments to encourage involuntary attention. Involuntary attention “employs faculties of concentration not normally used.” It allows students to rest and relax while the parts of their brain that uses direct attention is put to the side. College is stressful and students need to be able to calm down and relax before the entire experience becomes too much for them. Involuntary attention does not occur in classrooms, and happens more often in landscape areas. As a result, if college campuses are established with no greenery or landscapes, it would be very difficult for students to be relaxed when they are surrounded by classrooms.

When colleges are establishing their campuses, they need to think beyond the classrooms, and focus on creating additional locations on campus where their students will be able to further their thinking from their classes and life. Therefore, colleges should create their campuses with involuntary and direct attention in mind. One of the main objectives of college is to assist students in being as prepared for future jobs as possible. Environments varying from classrooms, such as landscapes or greenery, require different types of attention. For this reason, colleges must consider how certain spaces will impact their students’ actions and thoughts.

Segregation Through Infrastructure and Agriculture

In her article “Architectural Exclusion: Discrimination and Segregation through Physical Design of the Built Environment,” Sarah Schindler claims that infrastructure and architecture are responsible for maintaining discrimination in cities and towns. She provides several examples from Connecticut, such as a fence in New Haven and a concrete barrier in Bridgeport, in addition to areas outside of the United States, to suggest that governments do not need to write laws to separate groups of individuals (27). By putting up physical borders between different income-classes of people, these varying groups are immediately segregated. Although we may have not consciously recognized it, the government or private businesses have been altering infrastructure to sever groups. While it may be normalized to have these segregated areas, some groups have lesser privileges and opportunities as a result. Schindler’s purpose is for more people to recognize their unconscious bias, and to acknowledge the government’s role in segregating people through architecture. Individuals may not even realize or question why the borders are there, they simply accept it as if it is natural, and Schindler’s goal is for others to reject the normalization of discrimination.

Image of the fence in New Haven, CT
Image of the fence in New Haven, CT

Schindler states that the government is partially responsible for developing these locations, and may be unknowingly, or knowingly, manipulating people to segregate those who are already discriminated against to begin with. To begin, according to Schindler, “many planning decisions facilitate exclusion within cities” (14). For example, the government refused to build new housing developments without a dividing wall (The Eight Mile Wall) due to an already existing development for the black community (24). The wall would further separate these two communities, thus making it even more difficult for others to overcome the unconscious and racial bias that may have already been formed. Schindler continues by highlighting the fact that by preventing these different groups from unifying, it will be extremely difficult for individuals of varying races to see each other as equals. More importantly, these divides prevent people from finding employment, and improving their economic and social well-being. When the government establishes buildings or forms of architecture that creates clear separation between different living conditions or areas, it is natural for the divide between groups to widen.

The Eight Mile Wall in Detroit
The Eight Mile Wall in Detroit

Schindler’s argument is that by preventing people from accessing public transportation, they are immediately being isolated, and are provided with less opportunities to succeed than the rest of society. Individuals from lower-income areas have difficulty getting to areas that are not near or accessible to public transportation, and as a result, there is a negative stigma attached to them when they are in these locations. To continue, Schindler states, “many communities actively push their elected decision makers not to bring transit stops to their neighborhoods” (30). Although people of varying socioeconomic statuses often use public transportation, a majority of lower-income and African Americans have no other option and are likely to be forced to use these methods. The less areas these groups can get to, the harder it gets for them to find employment. Without employment, it is nearly impossible for those of lesser economic status to successfully break unemployment and poverty.

Transit stop in Silver Spring
Transit stop in Silver Spring

As Schindler previously stated, it is very difficult for real breakthroughs to happen if the system is not changing. Additionally, it is challenging for there to be true change in the way we see people if individuals are unaware that they are unconsciously separating groups of people. This behavior simply “‘becomes just another part of the landscape’” (11), meaning that racist thoughts and actions are normalized and blend into the culture and structure of society. People may not go out of their way to be hurtful, but little actions and architectural structures contribute to segregation. When the government itself is establishing these bridges and walls, it allows others to excuse their own behavior, especially when the Supreme Court does not make any progress either. Schindler comments on the City of Memphis v. Greene case in which the court decided that the closing of a street connecting an all-white neighborhood to a black one was constitutional (6). It is extremely difficult to make any progress when the government itself is contributing to the racial divide. Overall, Schindler does not blame one individual for the lack of progress on architectural exclusion. She delegates responsibility to the government for creating these boundaries, society for accepting and adapting to them, and the Supreme Court for allowing these physical separations to continue.

The Struggles of Democracy

In the section “The Dilemma” in “City of Rhetoric” by David Fleming, he focuses on the difficulty of achieving the perfect democracy size due to varying sizes and groups of individuals. Fleming acknowledges the problem with our democracy, and how people are always losing one way or another. His goal is to solve “The Dilemma,” by finding the right amount of people where everyone benefits and can provide input. To begin, he analyzes the pros and cons of smaller versus larger democracies because these are the two major group sizes. Both Fleming and I agree that smaller groups lack debate and diversity. In most cases, they will agree quickly due to how little the group is, and there will be no discourse. On the other hand, they are more unified and focused. Together, they understand exactly what the goals of the group are. There are no questions on what they need to accomplish, and they are more committed to the end objective. However, nobody is challenging each other. When people are surrounded by those who are similar to them, individuals are stuck with repetitive ideas. Although smaller groups may be safer and more comfortable, there is often a lack of growth. In contrast, Fleming claims, “Large democracies, have sovereignty, power, and diversity” (50). While it is imperative for large democracies to be diverse and representative of those they are representing, it is difficult for all individuals to feel a sense of belonging. They also may not be able to be as involved with all the decisions made. The struggle is that a strong democracy should have the qualities of both large and small democracies. Fleming states this and mentions Aristotle’s ideal polis population because it is important to know that the ideal democracy is achievable, and this idea has been in place for over “two millennials” (51) but there does not seem to be any progress to attain it.

Fleming elaborates on how one democracy size is not perfect for every group, and the government needs to adapt based on what they have, and the population they are representing. For example, local governments require unity. It is necessary for them to communicate easily together, and to make decisions quickly and efficiently. There is no need for a local government to be extremely powerful since they are not in charge of large groups. It is unrealistic for them to hear out all of those in the democracy. It is ineffective, and no decisions will be made. In addition, Fleming asserts, “we increase the capacity of the political system to handle critical problems” (51). Smaller groups are incapable of handling conflicts that extend to the rest of the world, or even the rest of a state or country. They do not have the resources or people to deal with issues that concern everyone.

Fleming refers to Aristotle over what the perfect democracy looks like, and how it would potentially be catastrophic if this dilemma is not solved soon. He argues that the best polis “is composed of a multitude of dissimilars in which each takes his turn governing and is devoted to making himself and his polis just and noble” (52). Essentially, he believes that governments must be ran by individuals who are different. If every person share the same principles, there won’t be any discussion or discourse. There has to be distinction. Aristotle refers to a “many-voiced harmony” (52). They all sing and work together, but there are still unique and successful voices. As stated previously, there needs to be a combination of both democracies. However, there always must be debate and challenge. The perfect group will be small enough for all to participate, but large enough for there to be varying opinions. Fleming overlooks what I consider to be a crucial point about what would happen if democracies continued to be ran without peaceful discourse and full participation. We have seen it now in modern-day elections, when individuals can not talk to each other despite their differences, there is no progress made. There is simply more arguing, and a divide is created among people when there should be unification for a common purpose. Although the perfect democracy may be difficult to accomplish, there is no better time for the country to band together and work on solving the dilemma.

Works Cited

Fleming, David. City of Rhetoric: Revitalizing the Public Sphere in Metropolitan America. Suny             

Press. 2003. pp 50-52.