Tuesday, November 7th, 2017...2:08 amMichaela

Esther Popel Shaw

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America is a proud nation-so proud that we tend to look away from the deplorable actions that we have committed against people of color. I find Esther Popel Shaw’s work incredibly fascinating because she draws attention to the flaws within America not only through her published words but also her diary. I searched Dickinson’s online records for Esther Popel Shaw’s poem “Flag Salute” because I never read her work before and wanted to see the writings of a fellow Dickinsonian. I think this poem speaks to a greater, and hidden, problem in this nation: systematic racism and the inability to identify privilege. I have not, nor will I ever, experience the difficulties of that a person of color experiences. After the Halloween incident where a freshman dressed in black face, I was disappointed but I was not afraid for my safety in anyway. I think this issue that we had on our campus relates to “Flag Salute” because when I hear the Pledge of Allegiance, I truly do have “liberty.” A person of color may not feel the same way, especially at the time the poem was written. The syntax of the poem is what I find the most interesting. Each line is deconstructed and followed by the tragic murder of a young black boy. By interrupting lines of the Pledge of Allegiance with the depiction of a lynching, Ms. Popel Shaw reminds me of how the majority of this country’s framework and symbols stems from the abuse and objectification of black people.


  • I like how you put your own privilege into dialogue with Esther’s incredibly powerful poem. I agree that the poem made me rethink the Pledge of Allegiance, and who is really represented by its claims of freedom and liberty.

  • This is super interesting! This looks at the discrimination Esther faced at Dickinson, but also in a larger community- within the United States. College is often time viewed as an escape from the troubles of the outside world and a “bubble” but it seems that this is the exact opposite. The discrimination Esther had to undergo as an African American woman living in the United States was only perpetuated at Dickinson. It was not an escape from these struggles in any way.

  •   Professor Seiler
    November 14th, 2017 at 1:20 am

    Michaela–I’m so glad you followed up with EPS in the online College Archives. Can you elaborate more on the “inability to acknowledge privilege.” I don’t at all disagree with you. Following on your point about systemic racism, however, I wonder if whose “inability” you mean to call out.

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