Talking History- Fantasies of Empathy in the Age of Trump

Alisha Gaines’ guest lecture on empathy in the age of Trump talked about the ways white Americans try to empathize with the daily struggles of being a person of color in America following the election of 2018. The belief that we as Americans are in a post-racial period because of the election of a black president is false. ‘Good whites’ feel that if they show enough empathy or sorrow for the lasting torrent of stupidity and racism felt everyday be a person of color. Following the election this empathy was shown in messages and declarations of marching and speaking out against what they see and asking what they can do to help; being an ally. By proclaiming themselves as an ally they are placing themselves away from the ‘other’ types of white who have not already come forward in apology to do what they can to help. Ally-ship and empathy relate to one another because there is no real danger in being an ally or various levels to it. Empathy was described as living in someone else’s shoes or entering into a country and forcing oneself to assimilate. But countries can be left and shoes changed, allowing the visitor to decided when they had had enough of the truth and want to return to the comfort then found before. This can be seen in the sadly large number of white Americans wanting to live as black Americans and Muslim Americans to see how bad life for them really is. Examples of these experiments include Ray Sprigle a journalist who used blackface, really a bad tan, to ‘turn black’ and live the black experience. Also John Howard Griffin author of Black Like Me where he understood blackface and a new identity in the south during the 1960s, who inspired Grace Halsell to also undertake this expedition after reading his book to see how the female perspective would change. More modern examples of this include Joshua Solomon and short-lived reality television show ‘Black-White’. The commonality of these shows is the want and need to see how bad the experience of the black American is because that is the only way to show sympathy for the way they live instead of asking an actual black person and listening to their experience and ideas of change. Instead skipping that step and going straight to the inversion method of learning about another person’s life. For many, after the ‘change back’ to white felt they were now able to speak on the black experience as an ally but unlike them, Racheal Dolezal, a white person who identifies as black would not ‘change’ because she felt it was her right to decided how she represented herself. Real empathy should be about recognizing another person’s pain. Cross racial understanding of how and why you, not personally, hurt of helped to facilitate the difficulties in their everyday experience, not getting offended or feeling attacked about it, and then discussing ways to solve the issue. As Gaines put it ‘empathy plus’ means real risk, shouldering the burden, and being able to know when to take the backseat and allow others to lead and voice their own opinions and feelings by giving them a platform to speak.

Post 14- White House Oral History

There is an influx of information being sent out of the White House but it is heavily edited and almost useless to historians who want to recorded the administrations. When looking at the information being put out of the White House it is important to be able to see what is not being mentioned or what is the focus of it. As the administrations keep going it is getting harder to obtain good and insightful information on what is going on in the White House. Reasons for this include officers no longer keeping the same type of notes, changing press, and the back log of information that has been sorted and made available by previous presidents. The issues involving the press and White House history is the problem of determining what news is and how to differentiate rumor from fact. Leaks of information from the White House can be hard to determine as truth or just a rumor that is hear. There also runs the issues of someone overhearing something meant as a joke and thinking it is up to them to tell the public. Because of this the issue of claiming responsibility for the leak and the backlash is an issue. Internal documents are a great source of information for historians to look at to see how the administration worked and processed but can be difficult to get ahold of. Reasons for this include the process to get the documents, which include many legal papers and issues. Thought these can be bypassed when the administration hands over the papers at the end of the president’s service. Though this may look like a solution it causes more issues because of the amount of information that is handed over and then has to be looked through and archived, creating a backlog of papers and information that are hard to look over and must be postponed. In these papers included notes written by staff members, emails, and recordings that have to be handled differently. When the staff know the papers will be handed over they may omit or take out information because they don’t want it to be know eventually or it is not important to them but would have been good information to have in archives for research purposes. Oral histories in the White House are getting more popular due the oral culture of the White House and how people are writing things down less and less. It is important to look at and be able to get the oral recordings of the administration because they may be able to show more than the paper documents. In obtaining the interviews for this thought it can be difficult to not lead the interview with specific questions and to not go in thinking you will get all the information wanted because they narrators could have their own motive and want to keep certain things out.

Post 13- Bergamot Balm

Horticulture in Maine front yards was meant to show a progressive and positive image of the family living there. The popularity of horticulture in these communities was the social and public image to the community that you were a respectable family with connections. For the families that participated in the decoration they did so because of the social implications, easy access to seeds and information. The dedication needed for this activity required the whole family and much of their time. Both male and female members of the household participated in the cultivating. Horticulture could be used to show the class distinctions in a community because of the time needed to make sure their gardens are well taken care of. Through diary entries, it can be read as not an annoying or tedious task but something they enjoyed doing that could be added to the normal list of chores to get done. Social interactions because of the selling and buying of seeds was important to note, providing a reason to talk to neighbors and others from different towns. The plants were also a way of remembrance. For those who moved away or pasted, by keeping the plants or seeds of them as a way to remember them shows the larger implications and meaning to horticulture. It was more than just decorating the house or spending time on your home image but a way to memorialize moments in life and make more connections.

Post 12- Accidental Archive

The items found in between the laundry shoot and a metal bar were saved from being lost and only monetarily forgotten. What the assembly of random pieces tell about the time period, house, and people who lived there is that it was a time of change which affected large sections of life. From these artifacts and research the author was able to piece together the story of the house and how it was shaped by the changing period. One of the first areas of change outwardly was the location and society it housed. The large and homogeneous German and German-American population in St. Louis at helped to establish common factors and beliefs in the town. Even while there was an influx of other immigrants, the commonality of German heritage made it the norm that had to be conformed to a certain extent. The neighborhood and singular house had a range of inhabitants but there were a few commonalities between them. First, those living in the houses varied from the owner of the house and if there were renters. Numerous houses in the area had rented out floors to younger couples and families while the older owners lived there also. Next, the occupation of those living in the houses. What they wrote down as their jobs ranged from self-employed to whether they worked outside the home at all; mostly the head of household or daughters. The major change in the area were the responses to larger national issues and how they shaped the city. Regarding racial and ethnic issues, there was more likely to be a push back of any mixing.  Another change was following the war. With a growing anti-German sentiment in the nation and a resurgence of patriotism those who did not follow in the national movement were questioned. The large German population and inspiration in St. Louis was quickly changed or lessened in accordance to the patriotic explosion and distrust of German heritage. But the already deeply established German influence was hard to get rid of or hide fully.

Post 11- Rebuilding

Following the revolts in the Jemez Valley, the Jemez people tried to return to the way they lived before the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors. One of the first things they did was to pillage and burn the village that the Spanish had abandoned, afterwards they burned it so that if the Spanish did return they would have nowhere to stay. Unlike the written sources of the Spanish soldiers and missionaries, much of the Pueblo side of the story is either not written or has not been shared with outsiders. From what the historians could get and understand are from oral traditions, historical documents, and archaeology. These sources helped to suggest the movements of the Pueblo groups. Using certain types of archaeological techniques, the researchers were able to find out about the living patterns of the Pueblo people. While looking at the locations it was also important to look at the relationships between Natives and Spaniards and Natives amongst themselves.

Post 10- Liebmann intro

The success or failure of revolts are difficult to determine simply based on if the invading party was turned away or the fighters were destroyed. The Jemez warriors who leaped to their death saw victory in leaping even if they could not save their village. To define a revolt, specifically the Pueblo Revolt era from 1680-1696, is a matter of perspective and expectation. Most revolts are determine by well-known western revolt narratives. Those not focus on them are usually centered on Atlantic coast colonization too. A reason for this is the type of material available to research the revolts. Western nations usually record the large changes that happen within them while more indigenous people either are not able to do so or simply do not. The lack of information does not mean a lack of material culture that can compensate for non-written text. Oral traditions and native versions of history are important to look at not only as interpretive text but true sources of what happened. It is easy to speak for the Other or oppressed group but a better knowledge of the cultural and social aspects of native life lets a better reading of what they have to offer so as not to only use them as a way to talk about larger themes or comparative studies on the ‘winners’. This is commonly seen with subaltern groups; those of inferior rank, groups without access to dominant forms of representation, or oppressed. Scholars can fight this by looking at material culture on the surface and being more committed to salvaging the remains respectfully.

Post 09- Hanna on Maps

Maps as a social text instead of a mirror are those that have personal input. As in John Washington’s hand drawn map, it shows places that were significant to him.  On first inspection, the obvious mistakes and prior knowledge of maps Washington could’ve had made his map less likely to be looked at by historians. Some felt it was too crude or nothing more than a sketch rather than something that shows the movements of slaves and freeman and how they actively try to rebel or live within the confides of slavery. Other elements of Washington’s map show inspiration for where he may have learned cartography. In magazines from the era and other map publications there are similarities in the layout and keys. Washington’s map is also an example of the interpretation of a person’s surroundings and how they may compete with the popular narrative or image. His map does that is many ways; he was able to read and write during a time when it was illegal to teach a slave to do so, he had access or previous knowledge to maps, and he was able to travel extensively outside the normal routes of other slaves and freedmen.

Post 08- Maps and Context

The use of maps for historical research is varied and heavily dependent on the topic of research. For some, the use of maps can be unreliable or dangerous. One reason for this is because maps are considered a nonverbal source. Meaning they cannot tell researchers anything besides small, specific details or do not show any human involvement or interaction. The use of maps are not used for social history topics. The literature on map focuses on the factual use of maps as representations of geographical reality and to show physical change over time. Periodization is also an important factor in determining the function of maps in practice and research. The social construction of the world through cartography shows how maps can be used to look at the distribution of peoples through history. Looking at maps as text, in the same way as looking at books; shows a connection to individual minds and cultural interpretations. The signs, symbols, and rhetoric of maps are three uses of maps. The function of maps, academic, propaganda, or representational determine also who is making the map. Intent, who is making the map, determines whether it was made by a singular person or largely massed produced. When reviewing maps, look at the type of map, who created it, the space being represented, and time period of its creation. Maps can be used the same as other text to show distribution and changes in art styles too. The use and research of maps also crosses many different fields including history, art, and science.

Post 07- Havana as a port

Havana as a port town and its importance to not only the Spanish empire but also the rest of Europe, was seen in the types of products moved through the town. Products traded in Havana or moved through the town included types of dyes and cloth going to Europe and other food items including, wheat flour, ginger, sugar, wine, and bread. International and inter-colonial routes and trade started out as the main two circuits of trade that involved the island of Cuba. The difference between the two was determined by what was being traded and the time the ships were traveling. The types of people involved in the trade and labor at the ports included merchants, contracted and not, sailors, locals, and those from Europe. Because of the large amount of people moving through the island, illegal actions did happen. Contraband and smuggling, especially of top market items and African and indigenous slaves, caused many issues for the Spanish empire. To contradict this, Spain sent out asientos, types of agreements for the number of slaves going through the island, also creating a third circuit item for the island. Other forms of regulations included the quality and quantity of slaves allowed to be trade both in Spain and its settlements.

Cuba’s history could be split into two segments; Havana and other. The importance of Havana as a trade port for Spain and the rest of the island of Cuba. It allowed the introduction of new foods to be moved through the island in terms of trade and use. The view of Havana as a supplier to the rest of the islands held truth because of its involvement with trade and the type of access it allowed to the other settlements in the Americas at the time.

Post 06-de la Fuente and Havana

The importance of Havana for the Spanish empire as a rest stop to the rest of the America’s colonies was shown in the creation of the port after it was deemed not important by the Spanish monarchy. It was determined this because of the lack of means to protect itself. Following the attack by Jaqques de Sores on the town of El Morro, Havana was given what it needed to protect itself so it would not end up like El Morro. de la Fuente’s main point was to look at the creation of Havana into a port town and its flourish later. He looked at how Havana, extended to Cuba, was a link to Europe and the colonies because of its use as a sort of middle ground when traveling. Because of this, the people who lived on the island went through periods of change and native population fluxes and the port was being built up. Following the up build of the port town, the introduction of African slaves, imperial money, and other forms of community enterprise contributed to the economy and social movements of the port. de la Fuente’s sources for this was people’s wills, dowries, parish registration, and town council records. By using these sources he was able to determine the population number and variety at given times.