CORE11-003/BCDP02-103 – Reflective Essay.
The critical vocabulary we are developing around moral judgements is an insightful tool for making sense of the world we live in. Where conceptual language around morals might appear to be abstract, the world we live in is insightfully interpreted through moral language. In this assignment you are challenged to independently choose the most relevant and rich concepts from the course, as you understand them, and use them to articulate your own value judgements made in response to a stimulus piece of media.
While this semester continues there are, around the world, millions of individuals choosing to demonstrate their protest at the inherent racism and violence of some social institutions. Hence the 2016 film I am Not Your Negro, that explores the similarity between 1960’s and contemporary <link is hidden> race relations is a perfect stimulus for reflection. James Baldwin is undeniably an incredible speaker, writer, thinker and human being and his insightful prose is sure to bring out many poignant moments for reflection. I have prepared questions which are generally appealing to a specific week of content. You do not need to restrict an answer to that week’s content if another idea helps you answer it better. You will be marked on the quality of your answer, not whether we agree with your answer or not.
Task: Choose two of the following topics and write a 750-word response to each. Each topic has been written to refer to a particular week of the course. You do not need to confine your answers to that week. If another concept helps you answer a concept with greater alignment to your intuitions, and more depth and clarity then you should appeal to that concept.
1. The film has many instances of Baldwin arguing forcefully that white-American culture has set itself barriers to seeing the problem of institutional racism and brutality as truthfully as black-American citizens experience it. How might the content from the first week’s lecture help explain and elaborate Baldwin’s point (you might want to refer to Simon Critchley’s article, ‘On Certainty; The Lessons of Aushwitz’).
2. Baldwin is adamant that cultural mores of consumer happiness wash over the harsh reality of <link is hidden> race relations. People believe that as long as they can have a house, white-picket fence, and the latest kitchen gadgets they are happy. How might a utilitarian elaborate, or critique Baldwin’s point.
3. How might the concept of empathy or respect, as we discussed them in this subject, have bearing on the arguments of the film?
4. In a poignant moment of the film, Bobby Kennedy is asked to accompany a young black girl to a school where she will face harsh harrasment from racist students who do not want her to study with them. He responds that it would be a “meaningless moral gesture”. How might the ideas of virtue theory help to critique Kennedy’s response.
5. The film has many powerful comments about looking into peoples faces. Baldwin contends that as white citizens don’t see the face of black citizens they have “become moral mosters”. How might the ideas of Levinas, elaborated in week 5 help unpack some of these powerful scenes.
You will be awarded a qualitative mark out of 15 for each response.
That 15 marks is comprised of.
5 marks for clarity of expression.
5 marks for level of engagement with course material.
5 marks for the depth of critical argument demonstrated.