Friday, November 15, 2013

On Juxtaposing MLK, Jr. with Malcolm X


On Juxtaposing MLK, Jr. with Malcolm X: Both men approached Afro-American civil rights in a unique manner. While Martin Luther King, Jr. proved polished and refined, Malcom X became notorious for his aggression and bluntness. Perhaps one of the best ways to juxtapose their leadership styles was to examine famous public speeches that each had delivered. For King, his "I Have a Dream" speech from August 1963 has become entrenched in American civil religion as a kind of "Sermon on the Mount" for civil rights. In it, he advocated a non-violent end to racial discrimination in the United States, especially institutional racism. And King believed it was only a matter of time before the U.S. lived up to its founding principles, replacing racism and hate with freedom and equality. On the other hand, Malcom X's "Ballot or Bullet" speech in April 1964 struck a very different chord in the Af-Am civil rights community. At that time, Senate "Dixiecrats" (Strom Thurmond, Robert Byrd, etc.) planned to thwart passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. And X did not hold back in labeling them "white political crooks" who made violence almost inevitable. For X, the ballot served as a kind of political bullet. Thus, unlocking black America's pent-up rage to achieve full voting rights was central to X's philosophy.

Friday, November 1, 2013

On Critical Culture Theory

On Critical Culture Theory: Before diving into cultural theory, it's important to offer a working definition of "culture." For historian Kristin Hoganson, culture is a common framework of methods and references to help one understand the human experience. To put it another way, culture consists of all the basic units that make up a community. A key feature of culture is language, which serves as the primary vehicle for communicating words/ideas (and their respective meanings). Take the above image, for example (semiotics). The line separating the written word "TREE" from a common symbol for a tree teaches us that there is no rational or inherent connection between words and symbols that represent them. It's only through experience that people build an understanding of written/spoken words and the descriptive symbols to which they refer. But aside from language, there are other key features of culture, including "memes" and "texts." Memes effectively transport the units of cultural life. Having emerged from Darwinian thought, memes are to culture what genes are to biology. Their sole purpose is to replicate, especially by capturing the attention of a wide audience. With cultural texts, however, they can be anything that demands meaning from you (a book, a song, a film, a painting, etc.) In short, both memes and texts seek legitimacy by impacting culture at large.