Summary of France’s Law banning religious symbols in school.

Recently, the French parliament voted in favor of the law banning the wearing Islamic headscarves in school. The passing of this law leads to the rise of many complications, with both sides arguing fervently over the law. Both sides provide compelling and logical arguments, and the points that are made are the main source of conflict in this situation.

One of the points of confusion is whether the law promotes segregation or integration within French society. While some people say that there will be no distinctive marker to separate certain students from others, on the flip side the others say that because students will be forced to forfeit the religious symbols (and therefore, they argue, their identity), and thus be forced to move from public educational institutions to seek education somewhere else, forcing separation in the school system.

In terms of looking at this situation from an outsider’s point of view (physically away from France), the major point brought up in this situation is what exactly the hijab represents. While in the West, the impression of a woman wearing a hijab or a burqa is that she is oppressed, rules by her religion and ruled by the men in her life. However, the argument is that this is not always the case, and often wearing the hijab in the West or in Europe is to represent the number of Muslim women who are oppressed. The assumption that all women who wear hijabs or burqas, by choice or otherwise, are oppressed and not given the same rights as the average Western woman.

When conflicts in understanding, such as the ones mentioned above, arise in a situation, there are always complications in interpreting what impact the law would have on parties concerned.


Main questions to think about: What does wearing a burqa or hijab mean? Who is impacted by the law and in what way? What lenses are being used in this situation by the various parties involved? (since most of the argument lies around what wearing the hijab means, race as performance? race as social construction and cognition as well?)

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Thoughts on Paper 1

I think my reasoning for most of Paper 1 was sound and made sense. I took one major part of analysis, uncovering assumptions, and went on to analyze how or why the assumption made created holes in the argument in the introduction of Black Wealth/White Wealth. The assumption I picked was the intrinsic crack in the foundation of the black American family.

However, I feel as if I did not add to the analysis as much as I could have, rather qualifying the statements already given and just exemplifying the argument. I wasn’t entirely sure on how to elaborate on my assumption and why it created issues in the argument presented by Oliver and Shapiro. Another aspect I focused on was the binary opposite created by black and white. There was no middle ground explored and I think that I offered suggestions to increase the depth of analysis in the argument by bringing in other racial categories and the families in their communities.

I think in my paper I have to work on giving further examples to add to the analysis instead of just examples to qualify the argument presented. However, I don’t think I fell into the either/or trap when it came to discussing wealth vs income, as I specifically stated that instead of being one or the other, a good indicator of economic progress would be a mixture of both wealth and income, and individually the two indicators can provide correct information to an extent.

By further analyzing my own writing style and making sure I have sound reasoning and logic in my analysis, I could make my paper much stronger.

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Entry 2: Thoughts on ‘Eating the Other’

This chapter of the book deals with the belief that a difference in race or ethnicity, described as the ‘Other’ or ‘Otherness’ is seen as a ‘spice’ for the ‘white palate’. The author states that there is an idea that ‘there is pleasure to be found in the acknowledgement and enjoyment of racial difference’. The chapter seems to be divided into Otherness bringing pleasure in sexual encounters and the exploitation of Otherness in mass media.

In terms of sexual encounters, there is a notion that engaging in sexual activities with the Other will increase the sense of worldliness and experience in the white individual’s life. The idea that Otherness heightens sexual pleasure is one that very unfamiliar to me, as it is almost paralleling chasing something just for the thrill of it. The whole concept seems to be about attaining the unfamiliar in order to experience the world, as if sleeping with someone who is from a different race will evoke some sort of new emotion and is therefore treated as an ‘accessible rite of passage’. This also seems really ridiculous, there is no true physical differentiation between whites and Others, so why should there be any difference in something as physical as sex? This brings me back to my earlier point of it being a psychological thrill as opposed to truly being something physically significant. There is a seduction in the concept of Otherness that has people convinced that Otherness will result in a new level of exploration previously inaccessible within their own race.

The second part of the chapter deals with mass media exploitation of Otherness, basically stating that through examining certain patterns in Other’s behaviour, producers and retailers could essentially expand their market by appealing to the Otherness in society. The seduction of Otherness also comes into play in this section of the chapter, because it is this intrinsic pull felt towards Otherness that allows for this kind of exploitation within the consumer market. This chapter all together explores a more unfamiliar side to race than I have ever really encountered before, putting together a new perspective that the seduction in difference seems to be more significant than expected.

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Summary of ‘Whiteness as Property’, a paper by Cheryl Harris.

In this article, Cheryl Harris discusses the emergence of whiteness as intellectual property, “affirmed, legitimated and protected by the law”. Harris states that not only does whiteness afford a certain group of people a level of benefits but creates and defines their identity in society.  The law should theoretically only defend customs and social relations, but has ended up defending whiteness as legitimate intellectual property. She argues that the importance and value of whiteness has increased, and the law defends this increase in importance. She also states that all the “racial subordination” is based on white supremacy.

The article begins with a personal anecdote about Harris’ grandmother and the experience she had by living the ‘white life’ while being essentially black. This is an interesting beginning to an article because before analyzing the situation, Harris manages to add a depth to the paper. The anecdote also introduces Harris’ main thesis and provides evidence for it, the differences her grandmother felt in life due to her white facial features but black ethnicity. After the anecdote, Harris starts to analyse and prove her own thesis, providing evidence that the idea of whiteness as property is being defended and instilled in society by law, showing that by being white there is greater economic and social security as well as stability, a kind that would not be accessible if the party concerned was black.

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