the “Magical Negro” and White redemption

Bruce Almighty (2003)

When we were discussing the “magical negro” trophe in Bruce Almighty in class my mind instantly recalled an article that I had read for a political science class. In this article, the author explained that Hollywood casts black actors to play the role of the lower-class, uneducated, magical black character who transforms a lost or broken white character into a competent person in order to redeem the white race from its shameful past of slavery and Jim Crow. He states that movies like Bruce Almighty and the Green Mile reinvent traditional black stereotypes of Mammy and Uncle Tom into a more subversive form of racism. Unfortunately, I could not find that specific article so I instead have cited a similar article by another academic author who states that:

” “Magical negro” films thus function to marginalize black agency, empower normalized and hegemonic forms of whiteness, and glorify powerful black characters in so long as they are placed in racially subservient positions. The narratives of these films thereby subversively reaffirms the racial status quo and relations of domination by echoing the changing and mystified forms of contemporary racism rather than serving as evidence of racial progress or a decline in the significance of race.”

On the other hand, I am reminded of the controversy about “The Blind Side” where people protested that the film was perpetuating the “white man’s burden” ideology.  What do you all think about this perspective on contemporary Hollywood and covert racism in the mass media?


The Smart Extra-Curriculars



In our education experiences, we have often heard that the key to success and further advancement is in extra-curriculars. Those six syllables are like the magic spell that’s able to transport a student from the lowest school in the nation to Harvard (or Vanderbilt). What I’m curious about is, which extra-curriculars have the power to heighten our individual appeal? Are some more important that others? In the discussions we have had about social, human, and cultural capital, we have learned that there are obvious hierarchies in these categories that often determine which tastes, skills, and relationships are “elite.”

There are even tips for choosing ECs.

This evening, I attended the ENCORE awards hosted by the Vanderbilt Performing Arts Committee. I came as a nominee and representative of Vanderbilt Spoken Word, a diverse performance poetry organization that stresses individuality and free speech. Throughout the ceremony, however, it became clear that Vanderbilt Spoken Word was not perceived as particularly complex or prestigious. In competition with advanced dance group Momentum, the large theater groups VUT and VOB, and a few choir groups, VSW fell short in every round. While nominated for several awards, it was unable to grab a single trophy. aruddddyy

Afterwards, I wondered: Are some extra-curriculars perceived to be more valuable than others? If a group on campus is unable to reap any awards on prestige by its peers, what is the likelihood that future bosses or admissions counselors will feel the same?

Are the organizations you join important, or is it more about your role in the organization? Your experiences? Your reason for engaging?


Or would we all be better off joining Student Council, Debate, or Model UN?

Rate My Professor

After lectures about admissions, how we are accepted into institutions and professors being role models I was curious about students using the website “Rate my Professor”.

As I was registering for classes, I came across courses I wanted to take… and then was faced with the decision of choosing a professor. I then turned to rate my professor. A website where you can search your professors name and details of their teaching habits, difficulty of their classes, exams, course material etc. are all on one page courtesy of prior students.

I fell victim to this site and then realized that those who wrote on this professors page are most likely biased one way or the other. If a student was a favorite of the professor or did especially well in their class, they are going to report as such. On the contrary, if a student fell victim to simply being disliked then they may report that as well. If a student felt so much so about a professor that they were inclined to rate them and detail the experience then they might be a special case.

How do you feel about this site? I found some parts of it helpful and others, a little biased or subjective (but I guess thats what youre looking for, right?)

Marijuana legalized for Colorado… and their students?

Marijuana legalized for Colorado, and what about their students?

“Q. How much marijuana can an individual have under Amendment 64?

A. Anyone older than 21 legally could possess less than an ounce. The law also allows an individual to grow six marijuana plants, three of which could be flowering at a time in a private, enclosed and secure facility — which could be a home or apartment.

The 1-ounce limit applies to possession anywhere outside the facility.

People would be allowed to “keep the remaining harvest, which will end up being more than an ounce,” McAllister said.

Q. Do you have to be a Colorado resident to legally possess marijuana here?

A. No.”

I was reading an interview conducted by USA Today and the above quotes are from a segment of the interview. Anyone older than 21 legally can possess less than an ounce, and you dont have to be a CO resident to legally possess it. Do the universities in Colorado acknowledge this new law? I am curious to know if grades or attendance (any of the previous fears of sloth associated with legalizing marijuana) have actually impacted the campus. I feel that those who were users previous to this amendment, are no longer living in fear of lawful punishment and there is probably not a notable decrease in performance from before and after.

What do you all think about this?

“Study” Drugs

” ‘I’m more driven. I don’t focus on anything else,’ the Auburn University senior says about taking the drugs. ‘If I have a paper, that’s all I’m doing. No distractions, no socializing, just on with it.’ Gabay takes the prescription drug Adderall, designed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. He doesn’t have ADHD or a prescription, but the drug is not hard for him to get.”

In light of the post about cheating in college, I thought I would bring up the unsettling increase in prescription drug use for studying habits. Being a student with a learning disability that simply makes reading/processing material take exponentially longer than most, I am prescribed certain medications to help me in day to day assignments and studying.

However, all too often I am witness to peers taking the very drug that helps me get day-to-day tasks done for their assignments… when they very much do not need it. This happens more often than not on college campuses and proves extremely beneficial for those who take it when they need to “buckle down”. Yet, I find it extremely disheartening when they gain access to this leg up when my consumption simply gets me on their level of efficiency, without it.

Do you think its a form of cheating when students take study drugs that aren’t prescribed it? If you dont view it is as cheating, how do you see it? What are the devils-advocate sides of this?


Bombings in Boston

In light of the recent Boston Marathon explosions, I could not help but think how unsettling (to say the least) it would be to go to school in a city such as Boston and have to experience that. I am in now way belittling the experience of others’ I am just relating the experience to our class content. I have a number of friends that go to school at Boston University, Boston College and other schools in the area. When I heard the news, I panicked in an effort to get ahold of them to ensure they were OK.

I found accounts of students attending institutions within Boston who were scared to visit the site for fear of their intentions misinterpreted due to their ethnicity. It seemed as though the media is very much to blame for such accusations.

“A Saudi Arabian national who was injured in the blast and then questioned by the police was erroneously labeled a person of interest by several news outlets. An Indian-American student at Brown University who has been missing for a month was tagged in social media—in error—as being one of the bombing suspects who engaged in a deadly gunfight with police officers early Friday morning. Those stories joined other episodes after the bombing, in which South Asians and Arabs were reportedly assaulted.”

If such an injustice occurred within our community, and Nashville’s media was quick to point fingers at individuals of a certain descent, how would that make you feel? Would you take any action on chastising media (if possible) for such uneducated assumptions? Considering the individuals would more than likely be our friends and classmates and how close-knit our Vanderbilt Community is.


I do hope that everyone’s friends and family’s are OK after this injustice.

The great law school debate: Is it worth it?

As a camp counselor this summer I rarely received mail as it was mostly for our campers. However, one day there was a letter waiting for me. Elated, I opened the letter in hopes that a friend or family had been thinking of me. I was very mistaken. An administrator at the camp who I had become quite friendly with over the past couple of summers had put an article in my mailbox, an article that she may have seen as helpful guidance, I saw as nothing more than discouragement. The article was two pages explaining why law school is a poor investment and why it was a bad choice. Amanda was the program director at our camp and had dropped out of law school after two years. I saw her change of heart as a great mistake on her part, but by no means did it warrant the confusion she inflicted upon me as I tried to take in what the article was claiming. What was intended to persuade me away from obtaining a law degree ended up solidifying my decision.

There has been contant debate recently about the value of a law degree and whether or not it is worth the enormous sum of money to attend. What we have learned in class over the past semester is that career choices have much to do with the amount of human and social capital a person has. The reality of the situation is that individuals who can afford to attend graduate or professional school and graduate with very limited debt are more likely to argue that the degree is worth the money and those who are burdened for years following graduation will say it is not worth the money. In this economy the valid argument that can be made is that leaving law school with hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans is going to cause an encumbrance in the future for that individual. However, it is unfair to say that a law degree is not longer beneficial for an individual to obtain. For those who can afford to pay the law school tuition, this is a great choice for a profession. We learned that while lawyers do not have the highest starting salary, especially those who work for the government, there is massive amounts of room to grow and move vertically within the field. I think that the sad truth is that lawyers in America will be made up of the elite class who can afford to attend. Scholarships are the solution to this problem and we must have faith that those most deserving will be able to receive those scholarships and fellowships because money should not be the determinant in this country of who can become a lawyer or a doctor, it should be excellence, intelligence, passion and determination.

I want to attend law school because it has been my dream profession for my entire life. I will not let anyone or any article tell me that the investment will not be worth it. I know that with my passion for law I will find success. I am lucky that I have the opportunity to follow my dreams and my wish is that everyone has that same opportunity. As a nation we should focus on enabling our citizens to find their passions and follow that path because that is how the American Dream is achieved.

Your College Experiences So Far

As my freshman year is coming to an end, all that I’ve learned this past year is starting to hit me. I came into Vanderbilt probably more naive than a lot of the students here, but this past year I’ve been exposed to so many new things, both the good and the bad. I feel I have a lot more to learn as I advance through my college career, but all that’s happened this year will definitely stick with me. One thing that has had a recurring presence this year is the idea of human, social, and cultural capital. It’s definitely true that we all come from different backgrounds and that what we knew, who we know, and how we grew up all contribute to shaping our experiences. In particular, it seems that social capital has the power to move us beyond the people we currently are.

Whether you’re a graduating senior or a rising sophomore, I’d like to know some of your thoughts. How has your college experience been so far? What roles did your human, social, and cultural capital play? In what ways did you find the best nourishment for your social capital?

Thanks for your thoughts. Best wishes for the new year and congratulations, seniors!

Looking Beyond the Major

According to a recent survey, business executives are focused more on their potential employees’ thinking, communication, and problem-solving skills than they are about their undergraduate majors. Check out the link provided below. Do you think this is a future indicator of the perspectives of employers? Might this only apply to the business world? In your ideal world, would you prefer for employers to look at your undergraduate major(s), or focus on your other qualities?

Media: The Root of Confusion

Mass media is very lethal to our country. The “Narcotizing Dysfunction” that comes with it is a problem. Take the latest issue of the Boston bombings. For the past week news stations have come out with a mass number of stories covering the bombings. This is the only information most Americans receive when situations such as this arise. This causes mass confusion when you are dealing with those who don’t research information for themselves but only take the news as face value. The more negativity that is shown by the news the more we as Americans believe what is being told. Using media to gain knowledge is a must, but I still believe we should look into issues and research for ourselves.