Extra Credit, Was it a Surprise?

For any event that has happened before our time, we have very little knowledge about.  That is why primary resources are important: we get to see glimpse of what is was like in the past.  Women’s Rights Movement is certainly one of those things.  We know that women did not have the same rights as men did.  Women’s gender role was very much set, and anything outside of that was considered ludicrous.  But even after reading many different texts related to the issue, one cannot help but wonder, “how bad was it, really?”  That is why Johnnie Tillmon’s quote in Howard Zinn’s book is important.  Tillmon was a black woman, who she described herself as poor, fat, and middle-aged.

‘Welfare’s like a traffic accident.  It can happen to anybody, but especially it happens to women.  And that is why welfare is a women’s issue.  For a lot of middle-class women in this country, Women’s Liberation is a matter of concern.  For women on welfare it’s a matter of survival.’

Her fight for Women’s Liberation was not a fight to achieve an ideal.  It was a matter of survival.  As Zinn states in the book, the question was even more immediate for some women.


Evan Haney was an Oklahoma Indian who served in the military during the Vietnam War.  From his testimony at the “Winder Soldier Investigations”, we get to see the change within the Indian society regarding their roots and identity.

‘I got to know the Vietnamese people and I learned they were just like us….  There were no books on Indian history, not even in the library….  But I knew something was wrong.  I started reading and learning my own culture….  I saw the Indian people at their happiest when they went to Alcatraz or to Washington to defend their fishing rights.  They at last felt like human beings.’

Did the U.S. government intentionally run programs to make the Indians forget about their roots?  If so, it was definitely for their selfish interest, just like the Vietnam War.  From Haney’s testimony, we can see how the U.S. government have not changed in some ways, and how Indians started to gain more awareness of their roots and rights.

You Get a Job, You Become the Job

A 26 years old ex-marine, insomniac, little education, and a bit odd.  ‘A bit odd’ can be an understatement as we see more of Travis as the movie progresses.  Nonetheless, these are some things we can tell about Travis from the movie.  So how did the 1970s American society define the life options for him?

We know that Travis is not very good at making personal connections with other people.  He does make several attempts, but they all fail miserably.  This is mainly due to how Travis lives.  He works 12 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Mornings are spent in porno theaters and he constantly takes pills.  Working as a graveyard shift taxi driver, all he sees is street crime and prostitution.  He became more lonely, more disgusted by what he saw.  Travis already went through the Vietnam War(assuming from when he was discharged) which probably was not a pleasant experience.  His life pattern only made everything worse.  He even took Betsy to a porno theater on a date.

There is a scene where Travis tries to get some advice from Wizard.  Wizard says “When a man takes a job, that becomes what he is”.  Although what he says does not speak to Travis’ problem, it speaks some truth about how things are.  At the end of the movie, Travis is labeled as a hero by the media.  But even after all the ‘thank you’ letters and media coverage, he is still a taxi driver.  Travis’ anger against “the scum, the cunts, the dogs, the filth, the shit” made him act out as a vigilante.  But in the end, he is still driving a cab.  Nothing changed.

“Go on, get laid, get drunk. Do anything. You got no choice, anyway. I mean, we’re all fucked. More or less, ya know.”

Black Codes of Mississippi (1865) Penal Laws

Sec. 1. “….. it shall be the duty of every civil and military officer to arrest any freedman, free negro, or mulatto found with any such arms or ammunition, and cause him or her to be committed to trial in default of bail.”

Sec. 5. “If any freedman, free negro, or mulatto, convicted of any of the misdemeanors provided against in this act, shall fail or refuse for the space of five days, after conviction, to pay the fine and costs imposed, such person shall be hired out by the sheriff or other officer, at public outcry, to any white person who will pay said fine and all costs, and take said convict for the shortest time.”


The Civil War ended, and the slaves were now free.  They were not given the exact same rights as white men, but still, the former slaves became free to a certain extent.  Now they could move to wherever they pleased, get paid for their labor, own properties, and etc.  But all the freedom that they ever dreamed of was obliterated when ex-Confederates once again took control over the South.

According to the Section 1 of Penal Laws under the Black Codes of Mississippi, the authorities can arrest any freedman if they are found possessing any type of weapon.  Basically, the blacks had no means of self-protection from any danger or harm in their way.  What’s more, is that the authorities could easily abuse this law and arrest anyone they wanted, and simply make a false claim that they were carrying a weapon.  Once arrested, bailing was not an option, and it is highly unlikely that most blacks had the money to pay the fine.  Then, it is what seems like a slave auction all over again.  The Black Codes were truly slavery by another name.