Women and Prisoners

The 1960’s and 1970’s were a time in American history that called for reform. This was a time in our history where women were trying to step our of the socially stratified gender roles that they have been placed in and achieve something besides having a husband, a family and a home. The “American Dream” for women was no longer the idea of the house with the white picket fence and big green lawn, nor was it to live her dreams through the fulfillments of her husband, women wanted to work and to make something of themselves; women wanted liberation. But even among women, there were class differences, so the women’s liberation movement wasn’t being fought as a whole, but in parts; every class of women had their own issues that needed to be addressed. Patricia Robinson wrote a text by the name of “Poor Black Woman”, she addressed the need for social change that women, particularly poor black women were facing. She addressed many of the things that women during that time were fighting for, ” she demands the right to have birth control, like middle  class black and white women. She is aware that it takes two to oppress and that she and other poor people no longer are submitting to oppression… Through these steps… she has begun to question aggressive male domination and the class society which enforces it, capitalism.” Women like Robinson didn’t have much to lose in speaking out for change, in the society that they were in. These were women who were locked down upon because of heir color, their gender, and their economic status, but it was women like Robinson that voiced their opinions and helped bring about change.

The 60’s and 70’s weren’t only a time where you saw Women’s liberation movements taking place, there were many uprisings happening, and particularly there were rebellions within the penitentiary system. Federal and state prisons were experiencing turmoil, Zinn states that “in the sixties and early seventies…rebellions multiplied. They also took on an unprecedented political character and the ferocity of class war, coming to a climax at Attica, New York…” Using isolation prisons hoped to turn their bd guys into good guys but instead they ended up with insane or dead inmates. But the prison system wasn’t the only thing that needed reform, the sentencing of inmates had to be looked upon as well, because as Willard Gaylin found, there was an “enormous discretion given to judges in the handling out of sentences.” Willard Gaylin was a psychiatrist who spoke to a man names Hanks, he interviewed this African American male who refused to sign up for the Vietnam draft and was sentenced for five years, Gaylin says:
“How was your hair then?” I asked.
“And what were you wearing?”
“A dashiki.”
“Don’t you think that might have affected your sentence?”
“Of course.”
“Was it worth a year or two of your life?” I asked.
“That’s all of my life,” he said, looking at me with a combination of dismay and confusion. “Man, don’t you know! That’s what it’s all about! Am I free to have my style, am I free to have my hair, am I free to have my skin?”
“Of course,” I said. “You’re right.” ”

This conversation shows us that the decisions that were being made at that time were swayed by your attire, your headdress, even maybe your color. The system that sentenced you to do time in prison was faulty, and prisoners along with others, like Gaylin, wanted to publicize this problem and fix it. This brought about a movement that has made a lot of progress for those in the system.

“An Area of Intimidation”- Kennedy

“…it was a sellout. It was a takeover. … They controlled it so tight, they told those Negroes what time to hit town, where to stop, what signs to carry, what song to sing, what speech they could make, and what speech they couldn’t make, and then told them to get out of town by sundown…” -Malcolm X (Zinn, Ch 17)

The 1950’s & 1960’s were a period of time in the United States that was plagued with racial unrest that resulted in many civil rights demonstrations, some peaceful, others not so much. The black community was struggling with deciding what they should do to confront the people that were destroying their lives; they wanted an end to segregation in public schools, the passage of a meaningful civil rights legislation, they wanted equality, and this was when the ideas of influential leaders such as Malcolm X and Martin Luther King arose. These two men were both highly respected within the black communities, but they had a difference in opinions regarding how confrontational their demonstrations should be. Malcolm X was a more radical activist; he brought forth anger and the idea of black power in order to motivate blacks to become involved in their own process of liberation. He had a confrontational attitude towards slavery, his ideas spoke to young people, and he (to some extent) promoted the idea of defending oneself with violence.
This idea that Malcolm X was promoting scared many whites, which is mentioned in Zinn’s text. During the March on Washington of 1963, many whites, including those in the White House, feared that violence would arise. President Kennedy originally opposed the March because he felt that if things got out of control, the legislature would vote against the civil rights laws that he was backing. So when he couldn’t stop the march, he decided to join it. His involvement led the Kennedy administration to be accused of being too involved. As Malcolm X says in the quite above, the administration went from opposing the march to almost controlling it totally. They decided what was going to be said, where it was going to be said, and who was going to say it. In a fight for freedom from the oppression by whites, the blacks were still being told how to fight, when to fight and who could do the fighting. With this help from the Kennedy administration the March paved the way for an end to segregationist laws, but to what extent should the federal government have taken precautions when it came to this demonstration? Were these political leaders trying to help the movement, or were they just taking on the role of “puppet masters” just as they have throughout history up on to this point?

A Slave With Rights

Stephen is a character in Django Unchained that plays a very unexpected role. He is said to play the role of a slave that belongs to Mister Candie, but is he in fact a slave or is he a loyal companion?

When looked closely upon, one may question the position that Stephen holds in Calvin Candies house. You wouldn’t expect a slave to be on such good terms with his master as Stephen is with Mister Candie. The way that any other slaves were treated, compared to the way that Stephen was treated, were two totally different scenarios. Stephen lived with Mister Candie, and should have been abiding by his orders, but instead we see him doing as he pleases throughout the whole time that his character is on screen. He chooses to disagree with Calvin Candie on certain issues, and he isn’t afraid to voice his opinions, his opinions are actually valued by Mister Candie, and he is even seen looking out for Mister Candie, as if he was his “right hand man”.
We have been taught to believe that during this period in the United States, people of similar races stuck together because they had common goals; in this case the blacks wanted to be free, but Stephen is a walking contradiction. He is black, he is a slave, but in a sense he is free. Out of his own free will (that so happened to be given to him by Mister Candie) he chooses to out Django and Dr. Shultz to Mister Candie, on their plan to free Broomhilda. He chooses to treat the other slaves in the house as inferior to him, and he doesn’t mind inflicting pain on those that he should be sticking by. This all shows that he cares more about staying loyal to his master, and being on his master’s good side, than caring about the wellbeing of his own people.

Stephen is an example of a person that will try to rise above his circumstances, and step on whoever he has to, to get there. He is a slave, but a slave with privileges, privileges that he has gained by staying loyal to the one person that we would all expect to be an enemy of his.

“Schultz Unchained”

Dr. King Schultz is a character in the film, to whom we are introduced fairly early on. He is a man who poses as a dentist, yet whose true occupation is that of a bounty hunter. In his conquest to track down the “bad” men that he is looking for, he takes Django on his journey with him because he is in need of his help. Schultz can be said to be playing the role of the hero in the film, but his character has two sides to him. He claims that he is after the bad guys and that he helps the government capture fugitives, but in fact he is one ruthless human being. His character seems to take pride and joy in murdering these so called “fugitives” that he is after. When a bounty is placed on someone, it is said that the individual is wanted “dead or alive”, and Schultz is inclined to bring back bodies to claim him money, rather than living men. One would think that he does so because it is easier to bring back a dead body then it is to have to capture a man and bring him back fighting, but he doesn’t think twice about killing. Schultz would kill anyone, anywhere, in front of family, in front of a crowd, in any circumstance (which we see in the movie as he kills a man infront of his own son, or kills the sheriff infront of the whole town) and he always finds a justification; he is only doing what is right because he is killing “bad” men.

Schultz is also controlling Django. Although he claims that Django is now a free man, we in fact know that this is not the case. Schultz uses the fact that Django needs him to make a living and needs Schultz in order to get his wife back, so maybe Schultz isn’t Django’s owner, he is his manipulator. Schultz knows how to use every situation to his advantage and he knows that he takes joy in killing, he himself says that he could resist killing Monsieur Candie, which yet again proves he is a ruthless, cold hearted man who has been set loose and killed up to the moment of taking his last breath.