This second part of Downtown America began with the 1960s and worked its way to the 1990s. I thought Chapter 6: ‘The Hollow Prize?’ was the most interesting chapter in the section of the book. It is hard to accept that this kind of violence really happened. In a way, I pity most of the parties involved; I pity the African Americans, but I also pity the retailers who lived in fear of their stores getting destroyed or watched it happen. The were torn, whatever their personal beliefs, on what path would be better for business – to integrate or not? On page 206 it says that, “retailers could not decide whether integration would ruin them, save them, or have no impact at all.”
I thought the pictures in Chapter 6 did a fantastic job of showing the horror, sadness and desolation of the time. Figure 6.1 (the peaceful demonstration), 6.6 (the tear-gas victims), 6.9 (the destruction of downtown), 6.11 (the threatening white posse), 6.15 (the retailers fear), and 6.17 (the shoe-shiner) were the most captivating. The shoe-shiner in particular reveals a struggle but is also an inspiration.
The second part of this book was as good as the first, though focused quite differently. It was interesting to follow the troubled history of the formerly beloved downtown spaces through the civil rights movements. It was interesting to see the development of these spaces into platforms where people could spread messages – message of hate or messages of acceptance. I don’t recall ever seeing any of Savannah’s downtown spaces being utilized in this manner, but being a little white girl in a very Southern and politically uninvolved family, I’m sure that my parents would have allowed a very wide berth around any such demonstrations. In reviewing media coverage of the time, it’s interesting to see how wide open and vulnerable political and civil rights figures allowed themselves to be. It’s certainly hard to imagine any prominent figure exposing themselves in any such way in today’s society. I think it’s sad that we have lost the downtown areas as a platform for free speech and demonstration. Today’s malls, especially because of their private property status would never be able to serve the same type of function.
Richard Nixon Savannah, GA 1970
Latinos, Inc. by Arlene Dávila provides an insightful and overlooked view into the way that the United States markets products to people of Latino background. One of her major discussion points is the way in which the United States markets an image that the ideal American Latino should have. This image encompasses a nuclear family that is not white, but a mix of white and Hispanic. American marketers have an idea that the Latino family is bilingual, and tend to put many advertisements geared toward this population in “Spainglish.” These stereotypes do not feed into just one country in Latin America, but instead American marketers generalize all Latinos into one marketable lump.
As we talked about in class, this has a negative impact on the white American’s view on Latinos. It does not recognize the fact that the Latino population is a diverse group, and, as the film pointed out, most Latinos identify more with their country of origin rather than their Latino identity.
We brought up the fact that Americans often think that in American we speak English, and “learn it or get out,” when in reality, there are places in the United States were Spanish or French is a legal second language. These calls for homogenization of languages and cultures are counter-productive, forgetting that old adage about us being a “melting pot” or “salad.” While these two may have different connotations (melting pot giving more of an idea of blending in, salad lending itself to images of diversity) they both recognize the fact that America is built upon different cultures and ideals. And, with the Hispanic population becoming so big that salsa outsells ketchup (!), this is definitely a group that America needs to pay attention to.