The film, Marshall, is about a trial in the early career of the first Black Supreme Court justice, Thurgood Marshall. He is also well known for having argued the Brown v. Board of Ed., Topeka, KS trial in front of the Supreme Court. This particular case is like a famous novel by Richard Wright, Native Son, in which Bigger Thomas, a poor Black man working for a wealthy white family in Chicago, is accused of killing a young white lady. In the film, it only focuses on one part of his long career as a lawyer for the NAACP, defending Joseph Spell from accusations by Eleanor Strubing of rape.
The power dynamic between Marshall (played by Chadwick Boseman – a.k.a. The Black Panther, also Jackie Robinson in 42) and Sam Friedman (played by Josh Gad) inverts the normal race relations of the time with white on top and black on the bottom. Marshall is an self-possessed, extremely confident alpha male while Sam plays his sidekick (in some regards). One of the things that the movie shows is that racism isn’t limited or secluded in the South; it’s all over the country, and when a white woman’s integrity is threatened by the big Black man stereotype, the ugly side of American racism comes out.
How do the Marshall / Friedman dynamic resemble how minorities (Black Americans / Jewish Americans) were treated in 1941? Provide specific examples.
Why was (and what was) Joseph Spell (Sterling Brown of This is Us and The People vs. O.J.) so afraid that he would admit, under police questioning, to a rape that he didn’t commit?
Do you believe that the judge in this case was racist? Or extremely grumpy? Something else? Why did he limit Marshall’s scope in this case? Explain w/ specific evidence.
Why doesn’t Sam Friedman want to join this case? What does he stand to lose? Explain w/ examples.
Pick three of the questions and answer them in a minimum of 350 words.
If you want this to go on the first trimester, please make sure your comment is posted by 11:59 pm on Sunday night, November 26.
If you want this to go on the second trimester, please complete this by December 11 by class.
Students protesting the Vietnam War in Chicago. The blue and red flag is supprting the Viet Cong.
After we’d watched the American Experience video on the Chicago Convention in 1968 on Friday, it struck me how much that the clash encapsulated many of the tensions in the 1960s. The clash between students and police on the outside of the convention, and the clash between the Peace platform candidate, McGovern, vs. pro-war candidate, Vice President, Humphrey, both appeared to be like a symbol of how divided the nation was in 1968. See this link for a day-by-day calendar of the tumultuous events of 1968. For instance:
– The peace platform delegates and followers of Senator Eugene McCarthy (dove) who tried to be heard at the Democratic National Convention, but the old guard (Mayor Richard Daley) that supported Vice President Hubert Humphrey (hawk) and the war in Vietnam (and support of President Johnson’s policies in Vietnam despite their apparent failure);
– The class differences between Chicago’s working class police officers and the “spoiled brats” as U.S. Attorney Thomas Moran called the college students who had gathered in Chicago to protest the war that could directly affect any of these young men with the draft on either side of the riot line (though truthfully, the police officers were most likely to get drafted and not be able to a deferment from a doctor or university);
– the rise of violence, disorder and chaos in daily life that impacted the political process like the deaths of John Kennedy (1963), Malcolm X (1965), and Dr. King and Robert Kennedy (1968). There had been riots in Watts, Los Angeles, Detroit and Newark, N.J., and across the country after Dr. King’s death in April 1968.
– The rights to free speech and freedom to peaceably assemble were directly challenged at this convention by the Chicago Police Dept. and the Illinois National Guard. Furthermore, the indirect censorship of the TV coverage by not allowing more than one live feed from the city (infringement of freedom of the press) so that the TV news couldn’t cover both the convention and the protests at the same time;
– The differing tactics of the anti- war protesters as symbolized by David Dellinger and Rennie Davis (non-violence) vs. Tom Hayden (“by any means necessary”) and the outcome of the marches and even legal protests at Grant Park.
1. Do you think the police used “reasonable force” when dispersing the protestors during the week of the convention? When? Why or why not?
2. Do you think the protesters crossed the line by fighting with the police? Why or why not?
3. Do you think that the peace delegates / McCarthy’s followers would have been satisfied if President Johnson had allowed VP Humphrey to make some concessions over the Vietnam War? Why or why not?
4. How do you think that the images from this convention influenced the outcome of the 1968 election w/ Nixon, Humphrey, and Wallace? Why?
Blog due Monday, November 6. 300 words minimum for the total blog.
“I became convinced that noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good. No other person has been more eloquent and passionate in getting this idea across than Henry David Thoreau. As a result of his writings and personal witness, we are the heirs of a legacy of creative protest.” – Martin Luther King, Jr, Autobiography
* emphasis is mine.
Initially going back to the 5th Century, St. Augustine stated that “an unjust law is no law at all” giving some theological weight / heft to earthly laws. Henry David Thoreau suggested that we obey our conscience when we decide to obey or disobey a law. He went to jail during the Mexican War and wrote his famous essay on civil disobedience. Gandhi used Thoreau as inspiration, and King used Gandhi as an inspiration. Gandhi and King used religion to inspire and their followers. Here’s a quote from Dr. King from a sermon in the early days of the Montgomery Bus Boycott:
… I want it to be known that we’re going to work with grim and bold determination to gain justice on the buses in this city. And we are not wrong; we are not wrong in what we are doing.
If we are wrong, the Supreme Court of this nation is wrong.
If we are wrong, the Constitution of the United States is wrong.
If we are wrong, God Almighty is wrong.
If we are wrong, Jesus of Nazareth was merely a utopian dreamer that never came down to Earth.
If we are wrong, justice is a lie, love has no meaning.
My friends, we are determined … to work and fight until justice runs down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.
But we can’t necessarily have people going around disobeying laws that they don’t like. There has to be some standards. Right? According to Dr. King, he stated that the difference is:
“A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law.“
He further elaborates on this and states that: “Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.”
Assumption: Since we cannot argue and fight with every law that we think goes against “the harmony of moral law” or disobey laws at whim (for instance, I might think that one day, the speed limit downgrades my personality, therefore I am going to take a principled stand against it by not obeying it), we have to assume that most laws need to be obeyed.
But what are unjust laws today??
1. Abortion? Or restrictions on abortion?
2. Wars or other military actions?
3. Immigration laws like the one in Arizona or the Muslim Ban?
4. LGBTQ rights? Or restrictions on those rights?
5. Economic stuff like taxes? Or lack thereof on companies, individuals, etc.?
6. Military draft (don’t worry, we don’t have one)?
7. Environmental damage? Or lack of environmental laws?
8. Jobs or a lack of jobs?
9. Software and music / movie downloading -piracy?
10. Behavior / actions of an American company (sweatshops, illegally drilling, dumping, etc.)?
11. Police brutality or other injustices directed at people of color?
12. Women’s pay equality and other issues concerning women?
Questions to answer:
a. Would you be willing to go to jail to protest unjust laws like the Civil Rights workers had done many times during the 1950s and 60s? (Consider the ramifications of a felony or misdemeanor on your record, and its impact on your possible future career).
b. After consulting the list above, which laws would you be willing to fight against? Why? (feel free to add to the list if you see any missing).
c. Do you agree with Dr. King’s reasoning w/ what makes a law just or unjust? Why or why not?
350 words total for all three questions. Due Wednesday, October 25 by class.
This fun movie focused on the real tennis battle between aging men’s tennis champion, Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell), and #1 women’s tennis star, Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) in Houston, TX in 1973. It was a huge extravaganza, with corporate sponsorships and huge prize money ($100,000 if King won, over 1/2 million in today’s money), possibly 90 million people watching at home and over 30,000 in attendance at the Houston Astrodome. Their battle was a reflection of what was going on at the time period:
Women’s liberation was making big headlines – part of liberation meant that women didn’t need men to be complete. It’s one of the reasons why radical feminists burned bras, refused to follow typical Western beauty standards, and protested sexist American traditions like the Miss America beauty pageant.
The Equal Rights Amendment had been passed by Congress in March 1972 which called for an end to all sexual discrimination. By the time the match happened, 30 states had approved the ERA before the momentum stalled and approval finally expired in 1983. A total of 35 states would approve the ERA, three short of the needed total of 38, and there was significant resistance from ladies’ groups and conservative politicians who saw the amendment as opening up the door to unisex bathrooms, gay marriage, and women fighting in the military (funny how we have all three of those things w/o the amendment today).
The 2nd wave of feminism had made significant strides in getting women elected to high positions, leading corporations and unions, and pushing for wage equality, day care centers, an end to sexual harassment, and equality in education and sports (Title IX).
In a New York Times review of the movie, the opening line of the review was this: “Every so often an exceptionally capable woman has to prove her worth by competing against a clown.” Maybe I’m a little biased, but this made me think of the 2016 Election. Hillary Clinton was a very talented and experienced candidate for the presidency, but unlike Billie Jean, Clinton would not triumph over the clown. Here’s a NYT article that finds parallels in the film. It’s a wonder if the filmmakers made it this way intentionally.
The film also really focused on the gender wage gap – using one tournament in particular, the men’s prize money was 8x that of the women’s prize money. The reasons that Jack Kramer (pictured above) and his cohort gave were pretty lame and were easily shot down by Billie Jean and Gladys Heldman (played by Sarah Silverman), and Kramer finally settled on the weak reasoning that the men’s game is more exciting.
There was also the love stories in the film – that’s the one thing that surprised me the most about the film – was that there were three love stories going on: one between Billie Jean and Marilyn, another with Bobby and his wife Priscilla, and the third between Billie Jean and her husband. Each has their own resolution with only Bobby and Priscilla ending up staying together.
One of the things that made me wonder was how accurate was the portrayal of Bobby Riggs. Steve Carell does a great job of making him seem like a real human being w/ faults and flaws. I also wondered how much of this challenge to women’s tennis players was real sexism, a gimmick, a chance to get back into the limelight, a way to feed his gambling hobby, or a combination of all of them.
Your job: Pick three of the questions below and answer them w/ specific examples from the movie.
How did the film portray the gender wage gap? Do you think the women tennis players did the right thing? Why or why not?
How did the film portray the love affair between Billie Jean and Marilyn? Why couldn’t Billie Jean go public with the affair? How have things changed since 1973?
What do you think Bobby Riggs’ true motivation was for the match? Explain why you reached this conclusion.
After reading the article on the supposed parallels between the election of 2016 and the film, do you buy the author’s assertion that this was an intentional nod to the election? Why or why not?
Due by October 27 in class. 350 words minimum for all three answers.
As part of his State of the Union address on January 11, 1944, President Roosevelt presented the nation with a 2nd Bill of Rights – economic rights that the government would have to guarantee for all Americans once the laws were passed. Take a look at the following video:
Some of the key passages are as follows:
“It is our duty now to begin to lay the plans and determine the strategy for the winning of a lasting peace and the establishment of an American standard of living higher than ever before known. We cannot be content, no matter how high that general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people—whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth—is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed, and insecure.
We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence…People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.
In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all—regardless of station, race, or creed.
Among these are:
1. The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation (since only 2-3% of the nation are farmers and less than 20% are in industry, this would have to change if this BoR / laws were implemented);
2. The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;
3. The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living (since so few of us are farmers now, this might change);
4. The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;
5. The right of every family to a decent home;
6. The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health (did we just achieve this in 2010 with the passage of ObamaCare?);
7. The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;
8. The right to a good education.
All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being. For unless there is security here at home there cannot be lasting peace in the world.”
He listed 8 things that would bring economic security to our nation and hopefully, by extension, to the rest of the world. At the point that he gave this address in history, America was NOT planning on a Cold War with the Soviet Union or stockpiling tens of thousands of nuclear missiles or spending billions on a military budget every year. None of the 46 years of futility vs. the Soviet Union was set in stone, nor the explosion and entrenchment of the military-industrial complex in our national economy like it is today.
However, America was coming out of the war w/ its biggest national debt in its history (having borrowed $200 billion from the American people in war bonds – $170 billion held by U.S. taxpayers – and from American banks + $100 billion in income taxes). Congressmen were wary of spending huge amounts of money on peace time programs, especially for FDR, because his New Deal programs had had such a mixed track record of success and failure.
The reason I bring this issue up is b/c I think that the country has spent the next 73 years (and may continue) to try to achieve his goals. As we progress through the school year, we’ll return to these eight core principles and examine how we have failed and / or succeeded.
Your questions to answer:
1. Out of the 8 new rights listed above, which of them do you believe have been addressed in some way or another since 1944? Try to pick at least 2 and explain our country has tried to address them (if you choose #6, please try to do some research and not repeat misinformation that you might have heard on talk shows, i.e., it’s going to save billions, death panels, it forces everyone to buy insurance, etc.)
2. Which of these 8 rights should be the one that is immediately addressed or fixed by our Congress and President? Why?
3. Which one of these seems the least likely to be enforceable / possible to make an economic right (please don’t pick the farming right – it doesn’t affect too many people)? Why?
350 words minimum total for all three answers. Due Monday, October 16th by class.
Here’s Glenn Beck’s take on FDR’s 2nd Bill of Rights. Here.
To read a book review entitled: “FDR’s 2nd Bill of Rights: A New New Deal” click here.
A response to this book from Forbes magazine who say that only one Bill of Rights is quite enough. click here.
Here’s an analysis of how the 2nd Bill is going so far: Click here.
An article about how the 2nd BoR violates the Constitution, click here.