This week, the reading we are looking at focuses on the Charlottesville 2017 rally and riots that ended in a tragic loss of life. The reason the protests and subsequent riot even occurred is because the city decided on the removal of a Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson statue, as they are monuments to slavery, which was an institution certainly not worth preserving. When it comes to the events that led to the loss of life, it is because while there was a protest in support of the removal of the statues, there was a subsequent white nationalist and anti-semitic counter-protest, which was a pitiful display of the dying ideology of white supremacy, where we saw one of its last actual breaths in the United States when the white supremacist counter-protestors took the life of a young protestor in support of the removal of the statues. The removal of these statues stirred up a dying ideology mired in the past, whereas the protestors in support of the removal of the Lee and Jackson statues represent the present and future of progress in the United States.
This week, we read three articles about immigration in Northern Virginia. The first article, titled “Identity and Assimilation Among Young Ethiopian Immigrants in Metropolitan Washington,” this work talked about Ethiopian immigrants and their experiences assimilating into American life. Specifically, this work talks about second-generation immigrant children assimilating into American life and how their identity shifts and changes in comparison to their first-generation immigrant parents. The reason talking about their identity is important is because of the importance of identity in American society, and what their race, gender, ethnicity, etc. look like after growing up in America. These things are important to look at because, seeing as how new Ethiopian immigrants are as a group in immigrating to America, we are able to see how the short period of time in the United States has affected the culture of these immigrants and their children because of assimilation.
In “Hybrid sensibilities: highly skilled Asian Indians negotiating identity in private and public spaces of Washington, DC,” the authors talk about Indian Immigrants and their experiences assimilating into American society. It is important to talk about their experiences and how, after living in America and becoming highly skilled people in their professions, that many times, though they became “Americanized,” many Indian-American immigrants also kept their Indian identity intact. It is also interesting to see their view before coming to the United States and how they believed that because they would be high up on the social ladder, they would face no prejudice when landing in the United States.
Finally, in “Feminised financial flows: how gender affects remittances in Honduran–US transnational families” it focuses on the Honduran immigrant experience in Alexandria and looks at different things, such as “gendered motives for migration, reproductive labour across borders, gender inequalities in the US labour market, intricate intra-familial power negotiations, the empowerment of women and new forms of dependence” (pg 53). What this allows us to look at is why, how, and the ways in which Honduran immigrants live in America and what their experience might look like.
In the article “Latinization of the Shenandoah,” we are told how this valley in western Virginia is becoming more and more “Latinized” as immigrants from Latin America continue to move into it. For instance, Harrisonburg was once 99% white, but now has one of the most diverse schools in the entire country, which is a drastic change in terms of demographics, where there are students from 64 different countries. This “Latinization” is forcing people to live in a changing world, and it is having perhaps the most drastic of a change in a region that was once, for all intents and purposes, completely white.
In the article “Perfectly American,” we look at the refugee experience and how they have a difficult time assimilating into American life, and how distinct yet similar their experiences are from immigrants. Over time, we also see differences in the refugee reflected in society through the way refugees have been either accepted or not by society, from how refugees from Communist countries were mostly accepted into American life vs. refugees today from Arab countries not being accepted by society. This change in society tells us that refugees will live successful lives if society allows them to, otherwise, they will have difficulties getting past the stigma of “the other.”
In “Defining Immigrant Newcomers,” the authors talk about the immigrant experience, specifically in Williamsburg, Virginia. What we see is a town that has lots of opportunities for immigrants to be successful in providing a better life for them, but they are also in an unaccepting community–by many, but not all–of people in Williamsburg, which makes it difficult for them to assimilate into American society. For instance, when looking at this hostile environment to immigrants, we see how people are hostile to those who do not speak English, or barely speak English, so if immigrants come from a non-English speaking country, they likely speak English as a second language so are open to attacks because of their difficulties with English.
The first article titled “The African American Housing Crisis in
Alexandria, Virginia, 1930s–1960s” we looked at talked about the reality of housing for African Americans in Alexandria in the era of Jim Crow. One of the many issues African Americans faced in this period was a lack of housing options because of redlining and segregation policies in the housing market. These policies in Alexandria forced–for the most part–many African Americans to find housing in Washington, D.C., as the city had more housing options for black Americans. One of the main reasons the city of Alexandria imposed segregation in the housing market was because of the suburban boom after World War 2 and how “local leaders were especially concerned that white middle-class families would avoid Alexandria” (Moon 29). In order to attract white families back into the city of Alexandria, they ignored the problems African American families faced in favor of making the physical makeup of the city look prettier. These racist housing policies persisted in multiple ways, all in order to protect white people.
In the article titled “Eminent domain destroys a community: leveling
East Arlington to make way for the Pentagon,” it looks at how the U.S. Government used eminent domain on land in order to build the Pentagon–and if the black residents who lost their homes were given “just compensation.” Though after the Government took the land in order to construct the Pentagon, though the community was given “just compensation” in economic costs, the loss of community this act caused was irreparable and impossible to compensate. In this sole act of helping the “public good,” the government took from this community “love, security, and belonging” (Perry 2).
The article titled “Land Development and Racism in Fairfax County,” mostly talks about the institutional racism that was ingrained in Fairfax County, which specifically has to do with laws and customs that are set up to hurt people of a different race. The reason institutional racism was so efficient at keeping black Americans down is because of the way it works–the policies are not outright racist, but they are set up in a way that easily disadvantages black people (such as how a low credit rating bars people from getting a loan for land). These laws in Fairfax County were set up in order to disadvantage black people in favor of white people, all so the future land developments will be majority white.
In “Southern Stalemate” by Christopher Bonastia, he focuses on school segregation and desegregation, and most specifically, how Prince Edward County in Virginia shut down their schools for a few years rather than integrate them. As Bonastia makes note, this period in time is often overlooked and ignored in looking at the civil rights movement for whatever reason–and that it needs to be talked about in order to bring to light our past.
Though Brown v. Board of Education was a landmark ruling officially outlawing school segregation in the United States, what many people ignore is that there was a period of fighting and sidestepping this ruling throughout the south for many years. “State and local leaders competed among themselves to prove their uncompromising allegiance to segregation” (Bonastia 2). Segregation was such an important campaign issue because of how many southern whites were against the integration of their public schools in order to uphold white supremacy. This is made no clearer when Prince Edward County quite literally padlocked their schools shut rather than allow integration.
Going all the way back to the Civil War, we can see the many ways the southern states upheld white supremacy in a world rapidly changing, as “for a brief period, state politics reflected a shift in the social order, 27 blacks were elected to the Virginia state assembly in 1870” (Bonastia 4-5), but sadly this brief era of inclusion and representation for blacks in America did not last long. This hold of segregation, which took hold for a century or so, later was the cause of movements of desegregation, such as the one led by the NAACP in Farmville, Virginia. The segregation of schools led to strikes and protests that were questioned by white leadership as acts of outside influence.
Reading about this era of school segregation and the tactics southern states used to uphold white supremacy in the public school system makes you really think about the power structure in the country at the time, especially seeing what it took to enact change in this system and fully and finally integrate the schools in Virginia.
In Virginia Climate Fever by Steve Nash, he focuses on climate change in Virginia and the many ways it is and will affect the people of the state. He talks about one of the industries that fuels Appalachia—the western region of Virginia—in the coal industry. “About a dozen trains come through here each day and their burden is mostly fossil fuels,” Nash writes, which tells us just how dependent our world is on fossil fuels—which is, in turn, exasperating the climate crisis in Virginia (especially as 1/3rd of Virginia is powered by coal (Nash 2)). Nash makes sure to let us know how, in only one power plant alone, it will generate about 950,000 tons of CO2 a year, where about a quarter of it will permanently stay in the atmosphere (Nash 2), heating up the earth and destroying the climate of Virginia.
Perhaps one of the main reasons some people are in denial about climate change and how it will decimate human civilization is because “ignorance is bliss.” If those who deny climate change accepted the science and reality, then they would have to accept how climate change is going to decimate the environment and the world in the future. It is for this reason, Nash argues, that accepting the truth has considerable disincentives behind it.
In each of the three different Oral Histories, I learned a lot from the different perspectives we were given.
With Chief Anne Richardson, a woman who is the Chief and leader of the Rappahannock Tribe, the Rappahannock River and everything that is affecting it is very personal to her and her people, as they have lived around the Rappahannock for around three centuries. When it comes to her tribe, I love how she explains that her being Chief and a male being assistant Chief “balances out the authority level between the two sexes” in her tribe, which is important to account for. I especially enjoy how Chief Anne explains the countless historical facets in terms of her tribe and the Rappahannock River, as it opens your eyes to the way a certain people have lived and tried to live for hundreds of years, prior to and after the colonization of the Americas by European settlers. I also thought it was interesting how much the Rappahannock Tribe preserves tradition around the river and nature, even in the face of “westernization.”
With John Tippet, he goes more into the conservation of the Rappahannock River and the areas of civilization that have been propped up around the river. First of all, I was really impressed with how he oversaw the “Friends of the Rappahannock” group’s role in “the adoption of low impact ordinances, the removal of the Embrey Dam, and the conservation of 4,232 acres of riverfront property,” as he’s had a massive impact in protecting the environment that exists with the Rappahannock. I certainly think it’s interesting where he started in the environmental world (Connecticut) and where he ended up in protecting the Rappahannock River. I also very much enjoy the way he went about environmental work, and how he wanted to lead environmental work from “the perspective of environmental science and not a reactive, reactionary approach.” The reason I appreciate this perspective is because it is the easier way to go about your work, as you need people on your side, and if you were reactionary and reactive, it is unlikely to persuade the people you need on your side.
Finally, with James Pitts, I thought the insight of a man who has lived in the same area for some 97 years is an extremely powerful tool in trying to learn about this topic. For one, I thought it was extremely interesting to learn about how when he was growing up on his father’s farm, in order to survive and make a living, his mother had to take their eggs into town and trade them for sugar or coffee or tea, and they would sell their ham for around 20 cents a pound. On top of growing up in the Depression and barely getting by and making ends meet, I also found how he fished his entire life, as it tells me that through it all, the river was constantly there to help the people living on and near the Rappahannock. In Mr. Pitts’ retelling of his childhood, it was very clear how important the Rappahannock was to him and his family.