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Ch. 5 - “Gone With The Wind”: The Invisibility of Racism In American Textbooks 
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 Ch. 5 - “Gone With The Wind”: The Invisibility of Racism In American Textbooks
Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong - by James W. Loewen

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Ch. 5 - “Gone With The Wind”: The Invisibility of Racism In American Textbooks



Fri Feb 01, 2019 4:20 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 5 - “Gone With The Wind”: The Invisibility of Racism In American Textbooks
Chapter 5: Gone With the Wind

Discussion Questions

1. The “Negro Problem” is signalled by Loewen to actually be a “White Problem” wherein the true causes of the failure of Southern Reconstruction go unexamined. In the previous chapter, we could extrapolate the theme to centre around an “Indian Problem” as well. Are there other problems we face currently that are similar thematically if not to the scale seen in chapters 4 and 5? Are we facing a “Rainbow Problem” or a “Yellow Problem” or a “Muslim Problem”? Why or why not?

2. What are the advantages of taking a "problems approach" to US history? What about the disadvantages? Is the adoption of heuristics to teach history acceptable? When? What is the inherent problem in teaching that things don’t cause other things to happen, they just “happen” on their own?

3. Do you believe the period Lowell refers to as the “nadir of race relations in the US” is part of a pendulum swing that began with the Civil War? Is that what we’re seeing now internationally - with the rise of political strong men, nationalism, and identity politics? If as many hope we enter a period of renewed global liberalism, do we face another such resurgence in the next 50-75 years? Why or why not?

4. Lowell discusses the US' liberal application of ethnocentric cheerleading, and cites it as a real problem in history instruction, (i.e. “America has done more for equal rights than any other country”). What other fallacies do we hear that qualify as ethnocentric cheerleading? Do you think ethnocentric cheerleading is indelibly good or bad? Why?



Wed Mar 20, 2019 5:51 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 5 - “Gone With The Wind”: The Invisibility of Racism In American Textbooks
Chapter 5: Gone With the Wind

capricorn152244 wrote:
3. Do you believe the period Lowell refers to as the “nadir of race relations in the US” is part of a pendulum swing that began with the Civil War? Is that what we’re seeing now internationally - with the rise of political strong men, nationalism, and identity politics? If as many hope we enter a period of renewed global liberalism, do we face another such resurgence in the next 50-75 years? Why or why not?
I think that's a fascinating question. I was led to comment because I recently finished this chapter, then was greeted on "Fresh Air" by an interview of Henry Louis Gates, Jr. about his book making essentially the same point.
https://www.npr.org/2019/04/03/70946243 ... nstruction
I think it is somewhat overstated to assert that White Supremacy was born of the reaction to Reconstruction. It may have taken more deliberate and modern form, but it was certainly present before the Civil War. Nevertheless it is interesting to follow how all ideals of legitimacy were consciously subverted and by-passed when it came to race. Similar things are happening in Poland and Hungary in reaction against immigrants (particularly ironic given that Polish immigrants were behind a lot of the UKIP agitation that led to Brexit.)

I was particularly intrigued by the evidence in this book that the Reconstruction governments tried to elevate the general level of life in the South, with infrastructure and schools, (the original motivation behind the Republican Party formation from the pro-infrastructure Whigs) but the racists were more concerned with re-establishing dominance than with uplift for the common man in general. Gates puts this down to the need to keep a labor force for cotton, and I think there is something to that. One thesis even holds that the Great Migration to the north, and the Civil Rights revolution, were only permitted when the mechanization of cotton cultivation began. I find that too much of a stretch, but it should not be considered totally irrelevant.

Does that tell us anything useful about the current tension between nationalism and globalism? Well, the Brits are learning the hard way that starry-eyed nationalism is a recipe for so much fog one drives over the cliff. I think the end of the Syrian Civil War will allow the agitation to subside for now, but Southern Europe has not yet finished sorting out its shafting by the German policy on the Euro. We went through a serious time of economic dislocation with the coincidence of a stupid Great Recession and a stronger-than-expected surge by China. Those times tend to make people anxious and open to paranoia and general anxiety. I would not rule out more rounds of self-sabotaging populist rebellion, but I think it more likely that things now settle down and people focus on getting normal back.

capricorn152244 wrote:
1. The “Negro Problem” is signalled by Loewen to actually be a “White Problem” wherein the true causes of the failure of Southern Reconstruction go unexamined. In the previous chapter, we could extrapolate the theme to centre around an “Indian Problem” as well. Are there other problems we face currently that are similar thematically if not to the scale seen in chapters 4 and 5? Are we facing a “Rainbow Problem” or a “Yellow Problem” or a “Muslim Problem”? Why or why not?
Yes, Gunnar Myrdal's recognition that the "Negro Problem" was a white problem was a turning point in the long and sordid history of U.S. race relations. Sometimes it takes an outsider to point out what a person, or nation, is steadfastly refusing to see (ref. Joe Biden and his overfamiliarity). I tend to think the others in the question are also problems created mainly by oppressive structures, but in the case of Islamophobia the violent road taken by jihadists has not made it any easier to get a clear view of that.

I remember listening to someone from the current Administration explaining what deeper vetting of immigrants would look like, and he said they should ask, "Do you believe that apostates should be killed?" which is a good marker for the distinction between the wanton violence of extreme Islam and the far more prevalent version of Islam that takes a moderate view. Aside from the practical problem that any jihadist with any determination would simply lie in answer to the question, I considered it a good idea. And it is worth something to exclude extremists who feel honor-bound to stand by their extremism.

There are some deep contradictions in the literalism of Islam combined with the long practice of using the sword to establish religious conformity. Christianity only got past the same problem after some enormously bloody internal wars of religion. Islam has made much progress, seeded by the more open approach to truth taken by the Sufi branch. Nevertheless, a person dedicated to human rights has to be a little careful.



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Wed Apr 03, 2019 11:34 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 5 - “Gone With The Wind”: The Invisibility of Racism In American Textbooks
capricorn152244 wrote:
1. The “Negro Problem” is signalled by Loewen to actually be a “White Problem” wherein the true causes of the failure of Southern Reconstruction go unexamined. In the previous chapter, we could extrapolate the theme to centre around an “Indian Problem” as well. Are there other problems we face currently that are similar thematically if not to the scale seen in chapters 4 and 5? Are we facing a “Rainbow Problem” or a “Yellow Problem” or a “Muslim Problem”? Why or why not?

Didn't Booker T. Washington himself accept the thesis of "too much, too soon" in regard to former slaves taking their places in society? He counseled avoidance of politics and, I believe, the "higher' professions, in favor of trades and small businesses. If I recall correctly, he did not even insist on blacks having the vote. It isn't unlikely that his attitude had something to do with currying favor with wealthy white benefactors of his bootstraps efforts, but he could have partly accepted white judgment of the "failures" of Reconstruction as well.

My sense is that the portion of whites who are truly racist/xenophobic are already on the bottom rung and still losing ground, not having the position of dominance to maintain that whites in the 1870s had. Well educated non-natives have been able to surpass native whites with little education. Immigration battles have dealt a blow to progress toward equality, though. I don't see anything like what obtained after the CW, but rooting out the lingering effects of 200 years of slavery and many decades of Jim Crow (as well as Northern racism), hasn't exactly been a priority lately.
2.
Quote:
What are the advantages of taking a "problems approach" to US history? What about the disadvantages? Is the adoption of heuristics to teach history acceptable? When? What is the inherent problem in teaching that things don’t cause other things to happen, they just “happen” on their own?

There is nothing wrong with the problems approach if you don't omit important factors in the problem. Obviously racism was such a factor. The point Loewen hammers is that problems have causes that can be discussed, if not pinned down. Textbooks tiptoe around bruising patriotic sentiment, so they can rarely say negative things about the folks that carried the day. The losers are a different matter.

On the other hand, the "happening on their own" view of events can be okay in one sense. What happens is often a surprise to the participants, who directed their efforts toward a much different outcome. Leading students to appreciate the partly chaotic nature of history can make them less apt to fall for simple conclusions.
Quote:
Do you believe the period Lowell refers to as the “nadir of race relations in the US” is part of a pendulum swing that began with the Civil War? Is that what we’re seeing now internationally - with the rise of political strong men, nationalism, and identity politics? If as many hope we enter a period of renewed global liberalism, do we face another such resurgence in the next 50-75 years? Why or why not?

To me, "pendulum swing" connotes the "things just happen" view of history. Reasons can be given for the failure of the country to remake its democracy after the CW. Did it at bottom have to do with rebound racism? The rights of blacks had never been a strong value generally for white U.S. citizens. Sure, Northeners were happy to accept help from blacks in fighting the Confederates, which emancipation helped fuel. But there was more concern for "healing the wounds of war" through non-punitive peace terms than for completing the emancipation of the former slaves.

The Henry Louis Gates program on Reconstruction goes right along with Loewen's account of the era.
Quote:
Lowell discusses the US' liberal application of ethnocentric cheerleading, and cites it as a real problem in history instruction, (i.e. “America has done more for equal rights than any other country”). What other fallacies do we hear that qualify as ethnocentric cheerleading? Do you think ethnocentric cheerleading is indelibly good or bad? Why?

Well, credit can be given without going over the top or into unprovable territory, as in the quote above. So I think that encomiums to the nation are somewhat inappropriate in a text book. But go ahead and load up the books with inspiring accounts that just happen to be true, why not? Show them what a great achievement the Marshall Plan was, e.g. Just don't be afraid to bring shortcomings into the light. The kids know they must be there.



Tue Apr 23, 2019 10:36 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 5 - “Gone With The Wind”: The Invisibility of Racism In American Textbooks
DWill wrote:
Didn't Booker T. Washington himself accept the thesis of "too much, too soon" in regard to former slaves taking their places in society? He counseled avoidance of politics and, I believe, the "higher' professions, in favor of trades and small businesses. If I recall correctly, he did not even insist on blacks having the vote. It isn't unlikely that his attitude had something to do with currying favor with wealthy white benefactors of his bootstraps efforts, but he could have partly accepted white judgment of the "failures" of Reconstruction as well.
That's always the problem with getting real. It means giving up some hope, some ideal. It is possible to focus on the achievable without forgetting where it all heads over the longer term, and without giving up completely on communicating ideals. But leadership seems to involve promoting one or the other: ideal or practicality, maybe because there is always such a gap between them.

DWill wrote:
Quote:
What are the advantages of taking a "problems approach" to US history? What about the disadvantages? Is the adoption of heuristics to teach history acceptable? When? What is the inherent problem in teaching that things don’t cause other things to happen, they just “happen” on their own?

There is nothing wrong with the problems approach if you don't omit important factors in the problem. Obviously racism was such a factor. The point Loewen hammers is that problems have causes that can be discussed, if not pinned down. Textbooks tiptoe around bruising patriotic sentiment, so they can rarely say negative things about the folks that carried the day. The losers are a different matter.

I have a feeling that some of the tiptoeing had to do with the feeling that the country had to have cohesion, maybe as much subconscious as conscious. An extension of "saving the Union" but with the sense that "the Union" is the white people because it was too hard to bridge the conflict between the interest groups involved. I am told that Southerners still didn't feel allegiance to the country overall until WWII, though WWI made a big difference.

DWill wrote:
On the other hand, the "happening on their own" view of events can be okay in one sense. What happens is often a surprise to the participants, who directed their efforts toward a much different outcome. Leading students to appreciate the partly chaotic nature of history can make them less apt to fall for simple conclusions.
Obviously I appreciate this sentiment. I have always promoted a "many things are happening at once" perspective on most events. If students can begin to talk about events as if they are chaotic, or at least contingent on things that could have gone another way, it moves them a long way toward thinking about causality the way the decision-makers experience it.

I think a lot of history teachers already make an effort to enrich the content beyond what these Least Common Denominator textbooks say. At least mine did, and current history teachers that I know are also making an effort. But the textbook holds a lot of authority, and avoids undermining that by saying "some people think X but other people think Y." I have a hunch that Wikipedia is actually helping a lot because when students do bother to investigate there, they find some room for differences of view.



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Sun May 05, 2019 10:53 pm
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