Based on our conversation about European activism from a historical perspective, what can you say about US activism? How is it defined by specific (historical, cultural, etc.) features? Feel free to use visual aids (photos, drawings, graphs etc.) to reinforce your point.
Analyzing the different perceptions of activism for both regions has to go back to the foundational level of each region. America is a settler-colonial nation and racism has been an integral part of it since its inception. The capitalistic model established within the country depends on the extraction of labor and even after slavery was abolished, the country’s form of discrimination was not disassembled. It was simply rebranded. The same violence has been perpetuated by our current institutions. By establishing the police in order to ‘protect’ white people’s property from newly freed enslaved black people, segregationist policies, the prison industry complex and more, systemic racism in America cannot be solved by simply acknowledging the violence perpetrated against black people. Activists in the U.S. have formed a movement that is pushing for radical change, not just reform. The system was never intended to be equal and people are beginning to realize it. The current movement has highlighted this point through popular sayings like ‘defund the police’. The reason I believe this strongly differs from activism in France and Italy is because activism in these countries have focused on economic systems like neoliberalism. While it’s not an easy task, the problems stemming from neoliberal policies take much less time to address because they are as deeply ingrained as the racist institutions in America. This is not to say that France and Italy do not have systemic racism, just that America’s has been exceptionally cruel. For example, American racism was the blueprint for Hitler’s model. A quote on a poster says it best: “Racism Is So American That When You Protest It, People Think You Are Protesting America”.
The main similarity that I can see is the role of the community at large and how they facilitated these positive policies. In Copenhagen, through bike-friendly changes in the city’s infrastructure and other sustainable investments, citizens are now empowered and feel its their duty to contribute to the city’s sustainable changes. I sensed this was similar to the water development project in Nairobi because while it received subsidies from the World Bank, it needed a local bank to take the risk and front the 6 million USD. It can be assumed that an investment of 6 million USD is not something banks take lightly. The fact that it was purposefully invested in the community shows a transition in the behavioral decisions of private businesses that are essential for the development of these cities. Its almost as if its…. all interdependent?
I believe that while Copenhagen definitely has a head start because of it’s developed infrastructure, Nairobi has immense opportunities to implement policies and create a general culture that influences the behavioral decisions of its communities to create positive change within their communities. These projects not only add additional money into the pockets of regular citizens, they enable the development of larger, more complex projects that will be necessary if cities are to be truly climate-resilient. It also creates opportunities for innovation because the city’s infrastructure and systems can think outside of having to be dependent on fossil fuels for their end goals.
The picture showing an aesthetically pleasing green scenery with windmills and solar panels creates a perception of simplicity. I do not think sustainability should be given that perception because in reality, it will be extremely difficult to transition our fossil fuel-dependent societies. Moreover, the use of wind and solar energy gives off the message that we already have the technology to be sustainable, just that we haven’t done so yet. While some countries may have the financial means and infrastructure to do so, making the transition to sustainable societies will require structural changes that may take decades to manifest. Also, the cleanliness and use one type of grass to cover North America gives off the message that sustainability will also be this lovely aesthetic because nature is healing. This perception of sustainability is problematic because it can incentivize greenwashing and other misleading perspectives; a lot of the changes needed will not be pretty or fun to make, but they are essential if we are to transition to a sustainable future.
The second picture depicting a farmer’s market local to the Carlisle area is what sustainability means to me because it’s about seeing the systems we already have in place within our communities and utilizing them as a jumping point towards a sustainable future. It’s not about creating an elitist/exclusive culture about who is the most sustainable, it’s about accessibility. A balance between local and globalized processes.
The calculator is a useful tool that can help people understand their positioning among the various indicators. This is important because when people know their positioning, it may be easier for them to understand that being privileged is not one dimensional. It encompasses a lot of the factors that can affect our personality, like our level of education, religious affiliations, and more. Conceptualizing this web of privileges easily debunks common counterarguments to white privilege like the notion that if white people were so privileged, then there wouldn’t be a poor white person in sight.
According to the calculator, I am 63% more privileged than others. While I did not have an initial guestimate of my score before taking the quiz, I feel it’s generally correct. I often forget about the privileges I possess, like being able-bodied and being of cisgender. Moreover, for me, it highlights the need to be educated about these topics and understanding the contexts in which we think about them. I know that when I would think about what cisgender meant as I left high school, I did not think anything negative about it, but I did think cisgender was simply something ‘normal’. Yet, my time at Dickinson has taught me that this positioning is wrong because it inherently means that transgender is the opposite, abnormal. Relearning how to talk about how we conceptualize things like sexuality, gender, race and these other privileges are critical if people outside of these specific identities are to understand the role they play in either challenging or propping structural problems.
Foreign cultures are often watered down or altered in order to fit the cultural norms of a given society, though this isn’t always the case. During my time abroad in Australia, the only form of Latin American culture I noticed was the occasional Mexican restaurant(to many Aussies, synonymous with Latin America) that was the equivalent of Chipotle. It made sense because frankly, there were little to no Latinx people in Brisbane, the Australian city I was located in. Many of Mexico’s traditional plates are intended to be spicy, yet when I ordered the spiciest options at these restaurants, they were always lackluster. This heavily contrasts my experience in California and specifically Los Angeles, as Mexicans are the majority and that is reflected in the city’s culture. Los Angeles is one of the main epicenters of the Mexican diaspora and this has created a very raw, and authentic export of Mexican culture. Thus, it is evident that the existing population controls, whether directly through policymaking or indirectly through their purchases, the extent of a foreign culture’s influence and presence.
Another interesting point is seeing that in recent years Australia has attempted to make ‘fusion food’ apart of its identity. Because the nation is so young, it does not have uniquely Australian dishes. With the influx of migration from Asia, South Africa and other countries, the general culture has shifted towards fusing these different palettes and deeming them Australia. Yet, many Aussie journalists have criticized this cultural development because it erases the identity of foreign cultures and is also used as a tool to show Aussies are open to multiculturalism, disregarding Australia’s extremely racist past.
What opportunities do you have, everyday, to increase or advance the extent to which our communities, countries, and world actually embrace the cosmopolitan ideal that “every human being has obligations to every other”?
Especially in today’s political climate, I believe the protests and uproar in regards to George Floyd’s murder and the Black Lives Matter movement have created unprecedented opportunities for not just me, but American society as a collective to further pursue a cosmopolitanism view of racial equity. I believe the collective protests across all 50 states and a number of foreign countries over the past few days have created a unified message that people are tired and past frustrated of the systemic racism in Amerikkka and other societies. However, as a white-passing Latino, it has also made me reflect as to why I haven’t done more for the movement at times when it doesn’t make national headlines.
Reflecting on this thought has made me uncomfortable. Why haven’t I called out the anti-blackness of networks like Univision and Telemundo and talked about it with my family? Part of me wants to believe that its because I don’t really watch these networks so I can’t call it out, part of me knows its because having that conversation would be an uncomfortable one. As many a part of the current movement have reiterated, it’s not enough to be against racism, you must be antiracist. While I believe I am the ladder, I know that I can do more to express it. This is all to say that I don’t think it’s just about the opportunities we do take to push cosmopolitanism, but also the opportunities we have that aren’t used— in my case, the uncomfortable conversations with family. Sitting in this feeling of uncomfortableness and understanding that it is wrong of me to not do more has motivated me to change that reality and begin to better utilize my everyday opportunities in favor of a cosmopolitan future.
How does the global citizenship discourse privilege Western notions of the human experience and marginalize indigenous worldviews?
While abroad in Costa Rica, the few projects of volunteerism we had also made me feel uncomfortable. The one that has stuck with me is when we visited a coffee farm near the cloud forests of Monteverde and picked coffee beans off the plants alongside undocumented Nicaraguan immigrant workers. As a group of white American students, it really bothered me as we worked alongside them, acting as if the few measly coffee beans we picked were really doing anything. I began conversing in Spanish with the person I was working with, who I, unfortunately, forgot the name of, because I could tell they were uncomfortable around our presence. As we began talking about Spanish music and cracking jokes, he began to relax and we began talking about the work they do at the farms. He told me that they usually work from sunrise to around 4pm, a 10 workday. This didn’t seem all that surprising as I expected them to have longer than usual work hours because of the demanding nature of the type of manual labor performed. As our literal 15 minutes of picking the coffee beans were up, we were told to head back and regroup for the rest of the tour. I overheard a classmate of mine say “this is fun, I could do this all day” and it infuriated me. I didn’t speak up because frankly I was going to be around this group of people for the next three months and frankly was afraid of being outcasted for making them uncomfortable.
As the tour around the coffee farm ended, which boasted about its organic, sustainable, and ‘great’ treatment of workers ended, someone asked the guide, who was a family member who owned the farm, about the usual workday of the people who pick the coffee beans. He said that they work from 8am to 4pm, with long breaks to eat included. I perceived that as nothing less than a lie. Whether to make us feel better about the tour or to hide the realities of their workers’ treatment, it didn’t sit well with me. All of this is to say that in many occasions, these projects of volunteerism are purposefully designed to leave the rich western with a feel-good moment. Without this feel-good moment, how else would you get them to come back and spend more? This emphasis is why the discourse prioritizes the western human experience; until people can go abroad and understand that in reality, they don’t always deserve to be praised for simple acts of volunteerism, I don’t think the discourse will favor the indigenous perspective.
How do you conceptualize “interdependence” and how are you a product of it? Think about the histories, cultures, communities, places, and people who formed you
Interdependence makes me think about the World Systems Theory as it splits the world’s nations into three categories: core, semi-peripheral, and peripheral. Core countries are industrialized nations(U.S), semi-peripheral countries are partially industrialized and also extract raw materials(Brazil), while peripheral countries are the most underdeveloped and often used for their natural resources(DRC); all three types of countries are dependent on one another to thrive. The incredibly interdependent world we live in today highlights the thin line between some of the most incredible milestones of humanity, while also being the cause for some of the fundamental problems in our international community.
Especially as an American, the number of everyday products that are made possible because of global supply chains— from tasty pineapples and bananas exported from Costa Rica, cheap raw materials from China, and premium salmon from Norway —are incredible. However, aside from the human rights violations inherent with many of these supply chains, our international community has also become dependent on them for financial capital and this has resulted in many countries dragging their feet when attempting to implement equitable policies. Interdependence within the frame of the World Systems Theory is both a tool to connect the world, but also a weapon to abuse the most vulnerable.
In America’s case, it has been an excuse to invade countries and extract their resources. Often using the claim that they’re freeing nations in order to create an international community of interdependent democracies, its evident that the concept is easily and often abused. However, I believe that interdependence will be one of the main tools used to bring the international community together in light of climate change. Though, I have yet to see how it will be done.