Martin Luther King Jr. “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to break silence”

I had a chance to attend the MLK Commemoration’s justice dialogue about the Vietnam War, or from my country’s perspective, the Resistance War against America. After Dien Bien Phu and the Geneva Conference in 1954, the French colonial rule in Vietnam and Indochina were thought to come to an end. But instead, the north and south of Vietnam once again experienced another long and costly war that was influenced by the financial support and political power of the United States. Participating in the justice dialogue of Dr. King’s 1967’s “A Time to break silence” was refreshing, especially as a Vietnamese generation whose memory of “the War against the Americans” was only learned during high school’s history classes and through my parents’ stories. 

The speech, targeting American audiences, calls out the lasting involvement of the U.S and portrays the Vietnam war as “the enemy of the poor” to both the Vietnamese and American citizens. Dr. King argues for a “radical departures from the destruction of Vietnam” as a civil rights leader that promotes peace, morality, integrity, and non-violent coexistence. He does not limit the vision “to certain rights for black people”, but convicts to “save the soul of America”, and believes that American liberation and the descendants of its slaves are still not “freed from the shackles”.  Dr. King first points out the hypocrisy of sending the “black young men who [was] crippled by the society and […] send them to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they have not found in [the U.S].” and the irony of “Negro and white boys […] kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools [nor] live in the same block in Chicago”. Additionally, Dr. King believes the image of “revolution, freedom, and democracy” of the U.S is turned into “violence, militarism, and materialism” through the U.S’s involvement in the war. “Funds, energies, men, and skills” are invested into the “demonic destructive suction tube” instead of into the “rehabilitation of its poor”. And “the voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos” could never be heard without speaking first about “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today – [his] own government”. In short, the speech argues that being an activist for the Civil Rights is not only the more reason to promote moral peace and co-existence instead of violence but also is relevant to his vision of the American liberation. 

Additionally, Dr. King believes it is the American’s responsibility to “speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for the victims of our nation and for those it calls ‘enemy'” because of the “privileges and burden […] bound by allegiances and loyalties [that are more vital and goes beyond] the nationalism and [the U.S’s] self-defined goals and positions”. As a Vietnamese student who has always been curious about how the contemporary Americans’ view of the Vietnam war, I was aware that there was a wave of anti-Vietnam War movement and many have strong opposition against the government’s stance of the war during that time. However, it is refreshing to see how MLK, a figure that promotes civil rights and liberation, describes the U.S’s involvement, such as “Western arrogance that poisoned the international atmosphere”, “encouraged [the French] with [the] huge financial and military supplies to continue the war even after [the French] had lost the will” – as the U.S supports 80% in terms of the finance and military – and “soon [the U.S paid] almost the full costs of this tragic attempt at recolonization”. Dr. King reaffirms many intolerant acts, such as the destruction of the “Vietnamese cherished institutions – the family and the village” and the support of “the enemy of the peasants in Sai Gon”. The speech is a powerful dialogue that radically criticizes the U.S’s imperialism, militarism, and materialism that do not only poison the international and the Indochina, but also the America and its children. 


New View On Slavery

It was eye opening to learn of the history of slavery. It was a much different story then what I have learned in High school. Reading Equiano, it gave me a perspective from someone who has been trough the slave trade. It was always explained that slaves were taken from Africa and made into slaves. I have learned that slavery always existed in Africa just not as it was in the colonies. Most slaves were prisoners of war or Indentured slaves. They worked until they were paid off. When people went to Africa it was not just for slaves at first because it took a while for the need of slaves to increase so much. Another eye opener was the Emancipation Proclamation. It was taught to me as Jefferson just wanting to free the slaves because he felt they should not be slaves anymore. I have since learned that is not the case. The freedom of the slaves was simply a war tactic. I have learned that he did not actually want to free slaves he was simply willing to do anything to win. He tried different compromises to before freeing the slaves. This course has shown and taught me many things I otherwise would not have known.

Biological determinism

This is a reflection of the book, The Mismeasurement of Man by Stephen Jay Gould which argues that the Western view of inherent inferiority and the ranking of groups of people was founded on bad science. This outlook has carried into our present thinking and social norms.

Race, racism, and other forms of bigotry have evolved over the course of our nation’s history. We have been witness to the notion that the ranking of groups is somehow dependent on innate capacities, or lack thereof, and the justification that seems to come from a common norm and understanding of our society. There is an understanding that the inferiority of minority groups is ingrained in their biology, and throughout history, science has been used as a tool for validating this myth. Biological determinism holds that social and economic differences among groups, such as race, class, and gender, is not contingent upon the their shared experience. These differences arise, however from an inherited inferiority based in the biology of that group, and that their social standings are a direct reflection of their biology. Science has been called to justify these claims. But science is not without cultural or political influence. It is not a solely objective activity, it has been used throughout history as a way for people to justify their prejudices.

Men considered historical heroes, from Benjamin Franklin to Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, have long embraced the racial attitudes and movements of their time. However, we cannot take these men out of their social context for fear of idolizing them. They used science and facts to justify their prejudice, continued to oppress slaves and black citizens, and they possessed the power and social standing to do so.

Dr. Shakes talk on Black Panther

Last week, I went to a talk by Professor Shakes, titled African Futures/ American Legacies: an Africana Perspective on Marvel’s Black Panther and Luke Cage. One of the things that stood out to me during the talk was when she spoke about the differences between the protagonist T’Challa and the antagonist Killmonger.  Throughout the movie, T’Challa is a king with diplomatic responsibilities and gives the political perspectives on what they should be doing and how to run Wakanda. On the other hand, Killmonger is giving the more aggressive military perspective on how they should be handling the world from Wakandas point of view. Killmonger and T’Challa have very different ideas on how Wakanda should be run an that is one of the main sources of conflict in the movie.

Throughout the movie, the audience sees that Killmonger wants to start a race war and wants Wakanda to provide the weapons for the war. Professor Shakes talked about how a lot of people were upset that we did not get to see any part of the race war because the plan was never successful in the movie. In a lot of other Marvel movies, the villains plans start to succeed before the hero comes in and saves the day but it Black Panther, we didn’t see any of the race war. Professor Shakes was saying that Marvel has to be aware of their audience. It would be too  intense and political for them to put a race war in a superhero movie. Even though many people would love to see it, there are also many people that would be upset by seeing it. I think that it was a tough call whether or not Marvel should have included a brief scene of a race war. It definitely would upset some people but sometimes it is okay to upset people and push the boundaries in movies like Black Panther.

Sen. Kamala Harris supports the idea reparations.

Democratic candidate for the upcoming 2020 election, Kamala Harris recently voiced her opinions on reparations on the popular Breakfast Club podcast based in New York.  When asked where she stood on the idea of reparations, Harris responded by saying that incidents like the Shelby County v. Holder, have actually been a step back for the black community. She believes that there is a disparity in where blacks and whites start off in the working world. Sen. Harris, would want to give the disenfranchised, a step up in the game by putting money into areas where rent is high. Putting funds into the education could also give a much needed boost to those who want an education. Talk of reparations have gone on, yet nothing has been passed in congress yet. Kamala Harris may be the one to change that.

Exploitation of African’s by Western powers.

This article talks about how African soldiers who fought along side the British were treated unfairly. I was very surprised by the influence of African soldiers on the world war . The British took advantage of their numerous African colonies. The article mentions about half a million black African soldiers  who fought alongside their British counterparts were exploited . These  African soldiers risked their lives and families to help fight a course . The question even arises if it was a worthy course from their perspective .Another shocking revelation by Prof Timothy Parsons, one of the world’s leading authorities on Britain’s east African army who talked about how “The colonial regime placed a different value on African life than it did on European life.” This really shocked me in the sense that even when they fought for the same course ,one side was seen to be less important to the other .The black soldiers were  paid up to three times less than their white counterparts. Another shocking revelation was how these black soldiers were even put in the firing line , even those that were non-combatants . The lives of these black soldiers are not any better now ,and some of  them are living in poverty . The British government was accused of burying documents in their archives which reveal how the government systematically discriminated against African soldiers. This article just exemplifies the exploitation  of African resources by western powers through out History .The western powers see Africans as a way of obtaining free labor and exploiting their human capital.

Year of Return to Ghana 2019

Ghana is considered to be a major country where millions of Africans were taken from during the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade in the 15th century, and sent to the Americas. After 400 years since the slave trade ended, Ghana looks to acknowledge the year 2019 as the year to connect with people of the African Diaspora by inviting them back home to celebrate a series of events happening throughout the year.

From Black History Month in February, to  Emancipation Day in August, Ghanaians aim at bringing a number of people of African descent from North America, The Caribbean, South America and Europe to come together to engage in these various activities throughout the year. This event will also give the country an opportunity to showcase what it has, especially within the tourism industry. Ghana is rich in culture and major tourist sites. As such, professionals involved in the year of return could make use of this opportunity by both benefitting from this in a lucrative sense as well as giving their fellow members of the diaspora knowledge and insights into these major tourist sites.

The country hopes this will not become a short-term event but will serve as the beginning of a connection that will grow and become stronger than what it already is.

The Addition of New African Immigrants and their Interactions between Native African American Citizens

Are the new African immigrants arriving in Ohio capable of integrating successfully with their native African American neighbors? For African Americans being born in America, their history is closely tied to that of slavery and segregation, two major institutionalized practices that they would have had to overcome to be recognized as equals in society. These were major breakthroughs for the African community but with the New African Immigrants Commission, now African Americans have more completion with foreign immigrants. These challenges that come with their integration include language barriers,  cultural differences, and other such concerning problems that would hamper relations.

Of course, African relations in Columbus, Ohio aren’t as hostile as they are in New York City from the show, Luke Cage.  Despite the competition, both immigrant and native African American populations are working together to help build better communities. Liberians in Columbus Inc., formed to aide the local Liberians that fled their homes and livelihoods in Liberia to help settle down in Columbus. Other such aid programs have started up to aide struggling immigrants as well with the help of native and immigrant peoples. It seems like African immigrants and native African American populations can, despite serious communication and culture differences,  create and sustain a positive environment for all African peoples.

African Futures, American Legacies: An Africana Perspective on Marvel’s Black Panther and Luke Cage

I attended the lecture given by Professor Shakes last Thursday. The title of the lecture was “African Futures, American Legacies: An Africana Perspective on Marvel’s Black Panther and Luke Cage.” The lecture focused on, as the title implies, the film Black Panther, which I have seen, and the Netflix Original Luke Cage, which I have not. Throughout the lecture Professor Shakes focused on how the popular culture portrays black people, largely focusing on the characterization from the film and show. I found her characterization very interesting because it was a topic I was not as familiar with.


One of the points that Professor Shakes made was that Black Panther shows what African countries may have been like if not for slavery and colonialism, but Luke Cage shows what it was like because of those factors. I found this interesting because these are two somewhat different representations of black culture but they both come from the same place, that white people largely affected the path and future of African and black culture. Black Panther features a fictional African country which has a huge technological advantages which are hidden from the rest of the world. Luke Cage focuses on warring black families in Harlem. The similarities between the two different portrayals may not have been evident without the comparison coming from Professor Shakes.

She also mentioned how various characters in Black Panther felt different connections to other black people around the world. Some felt the need to provide financial aid to poor people, of any race, while others thought it was better to help only specifically black people and to supply them with weapons so they could start a race war. However, Professor Shakes pointed out that the plot was not allowed to reach that conclusion and perhaps wished it had. She supplied that she thought the creators did not include this in order to maintain their white audience, as they may have been uncomfortable with a race war. I will admit I originally found the topic uncomfortable but as she continued the discussion I understood the merit of what she was saying. Overall, I found her perspective and insight on this topic very interesting and learned a lot from this lecture.

Professor Shakes’ Lecture

Professor Shakes gave an interesting and eye opening lecture this past Thursday. I had seen Black Panther before and knew some of the themes that entailed from the movie, but not to the extent that she had shared. I have not seen Luke Cage so I will keep my focus on Black Panther. I would first like to mention how I thought it was interesting to see how the movie was made by white men, but then black writers took over the story. This changed the way the character and story looked, in order to fit themes regarding past and current issues.

In the movie, Shakes’ describes different characters desribing different ideas and peoples. King T’challa and Shuri  represented the peaceful abolitionist movement for freedom, Killmonger representing the “monster that imperlism and racism created, and Klaw representing the “colonist desire for domination.” After hearing the representations of each of these characters I began to understand why the movie was portrayed the way it was. I believe it was to show previous conflict and oppresion and how to deal with the problem at hand. This movie showed there are different ways of approaching the same issue. Professor Shakes mentioned how some audience wanted T’challa to have a Killmonger mindset. However, the authors took a different turn from that idea.

What this lecture showed me was how popular culture, such as a superhero film, can portray serious issues and the potential solutions to these issues.