For this week’s VSP, you are tasked with the following:
Choose one of the class readings from week 7 or 8, then respond to one of the prompts from the Discussion for that reading that you have not already used for a Discussion post; for reference, they are:
For “Columbus, the Indians, and Human Progress”:
1. Zinn says that “When we read the history books given to children in the United States, it all starts with heroic adventure–there is no bloodshed–and Columbus Day is a celebration” and that beyond “the elementary and high schools there are only occasional hints of something else,” such as that which appears in the definitive Columbus narrative (at the time), 1954’s Christopher Columbus, Mariner by Samuel Eliot Morison, which amounts to one sentence on one page that does, in fact, rightly refer to the actions of Columbus and his successors as “genocide” but which quickly buries this fact in a “mass of other information, [thus saying to the reader]: yes, mass murder took place, but it’s not that important… it should affect very little what we do in the world (Zinn 7 – 8). Does the reluctant coverage of Columbus’ actions throughout Western history inform the debate about existing or past power structures in Western/American culture; how so? Do past injustices and cruelties matter in the now; why or why not? Whose interest does it serve (or did it serve) for historians to have “swept under the rug” the overwhelming number of human atrocities committed by Columbus, Cortes, Pizarro, the English Settlers, and their successors; how so?
2. Zinn poses the question: “Was all this bloodshed and deceit — from Columbus to Cortes, Pizarro, the Puritans — a necessity for the human race to progress from savagery to civilization?” and answers this question thusly: “…how can that judgement be made if the benefits and losses cannot be balanced because the losses are either unmentioned or mentioned quickly? That quick disposal [of the history of those on the losing side of “discovery”] might be acceptable to the middle and upper classes of conquering and “advanced” countries. But is it acceptable…to the victims of that progress which benefits a privileged minority in the world?” (Zinn 17). What do you think, based on the reading: was the European conquest of the Western World, including the enslavement and genocide of whole peoples a necessity for the human race to progress or could events have unfolded differently, given the nature of the native people’s encountered, as well as Las Casas’ account that Columbus’ actions were “foreign to human nature”? Does your answer inform a broader debate about the power structures inherent in Western Culture, about justice and equality, or about privilege; how so?
3. Zinn says that all of the brutality and bloodshed, all of the genocide and enslavement, for hundreds of years following Columbus’ chance encounter with the Bahamas, boils down to the human “need” (born from civilizations based in private property) for space and land being transformed, in a “barbarous epoch of history ruled by competition,” into the murder of whole peoples (Zinn 16). What is being done today in the name of this same kind of “competition” between dominant nations, global corporations, and individuals that history may, eventually, similarly condemn, as it does Columbus’ actions? Are these present day atrocities the result of exaggerated wealth disparity and should not the privileged and ruling classes reconsider the value of their privileges in the face of anger from those sacrificed in the name of progress; how so?
4. Zinn says that “the easy acceptance of atrocities as a deplorable but necessary price to pay for progress… that is still with us” (Zinn 9). What is being done today that might be viewed as a deplorable but necessary price to pay for progress? What is the deplorable action and what is the proposed progress? Will it work? Why or why not? Is the racism, sexism, nationalism, and xenophobia inherent in the Trump campaign, presidency and overall rhetoric being justified by the idea that a Trump presidency will serve the public interest? Is that good for Western/U.S. society or bad; why? Does that inform a broader debate about the power structures inherent in Western Culture, about justice and equality, or about privilege; how so?
For “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack”:
1. Do you agree with McIntosh’s definition of white privilege as “a package of unearned assets [white people] can count on cashing in each day” and “an invisible knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools and blank checks” and/or with some of the effects of white privilege as she enumerates them, from inside her own economic class, religion, ethnic status (separate from race) and geographic location (McIntosh 1 – 6); why or why not? Does the logic she cites point to the idea that contemporary Western and U.S. culture organized in a way that privileges some and not others, or some more than others; why or why not?
2. McIntosh writes that privilege, in some sense, ultimately means dominance, and that unearned privilege can therefore look like strength, when it really is permission to dominate, but that not all of the kinds of privilege she’s listed are inevitably damaging, and, in fact, some we would want for everyone in a just society, whereas others we would not want at all in a just society (McIntosh 8). What does McIntosh mean by this distinction, and can you explicate some examples of these different types of privileges as you see them, or as McIntosh has listed them? What does this say about power structures both in our current Western society and societies in general; how so? Are any of either kind of these privileges related to inequities in criminal, social or economic justice; how so?
3. McIntosh writes that it is hard to distinguish between privilege related to race, financial class, sex, gender, sexuality, age, ‘able-bodied-ness’ [my word not hers], etc., because they are all “interlocking oppressions” (Combahee River Collective as qtd in McIntosh 9). Are any of these types of privilege more or less apparent, or more or less ‘relevant’ than others; how so? Do the unearned advantages of high financial class exceed those of other groups, somehow, and does your answer inform a broader debate about wealth disparity and the results of exaggerated wealth disparity; how so?
In your response, be sure to introduce the title and author, summarize the reading (or the relevant parts) briefly, define the argument(s) or persuasive point (s) that the author is making as alluded to in the prompt, and respond to the prompt using specific evidence from one researched source (the author and title of which you also name) that supports or opposes some claim you are making, with proper MLA in-text citations for your quoted evidence (for reference, our library’s article databases on which you may conduct your research are available here)Links to an external site.. In addition, you must include “long form” Works Cited citations for both your reading and your outside source on a separate page.
VSPs must be a minimum of 300 words and, in addition to containing proper MLA citations, must use proper MLA page formatting where it concerns page numbers, student name, instructor name, class number, date and title. Also, make sure the document is double-spaced between lines.
Submissions must be made in either .doc, .docx, or .pdf format. A rubric has been made available to facilitate your understanding of how the paper will be graded; it is available below.
NOTICE: This assignment will be submitted from Canvas to Vericite, a web-based plagiarism checker that will test your paper against multiple paper repositories as well as the broader internet, so, again, do not cheat! (see the course policy about Academic Honesty and/or the Lake Tahoe Community College