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The Greatest Generation and the enduring myth of the Good War

So hey, a lot of new scholarship about World War II has been focusing on the rapes perpetrate by the various militaries involved. The Japanese famously enslaved tens of thousands of Korean and Chinese women to serve as rape victims for their troops. They had the uncomfortable sobriquet "comfort women." And the Russian army, after German's failed attack, raped their way to Berlin. And now it looks like the American army did they same thing to France. Rape by American Soldiers in World War II France - NYTimes.com
This isn’t the “greatest generation” as it has come to be depicted in popular histories. But in “What Soldiers Do: Sex and the American G.I. in World War II France,” the historian Mary Louise Roberts draws on French archives, American military records, wartime propaganda and other sources to advance a provocative argument: The liberation of France was “sold” to soldiers not as a battle for freedom but as an erotic adventure among oversexed Frenchwomen, stirring up a “tsunami of male lust” that a battered and mistrustful population often saw as a second assault on its sovereignty and dignity. “I could not believe what I was reading,” Ms. Roberts, a professor of French history at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, recalled of the moment she came across the citizen complaints in an obscure archive in Le Havre. “I took out my little camera and began photographing the pages. I did not go to the bathroom for eight hours.” . . . Sex was certainly on the liberators’ minds. The book cites military propaganda and press accounts depicting France as “a tremendous brothel inhabited by 40 million hedonists,” as Life magazine put it. (Sample sentences from a French phrase guide in the newspaper Stars and Stripes: “You are very pretty” and “Are your parents at home?”) On the ground, however, the grateful kisses captured by photojournalists gave way to something less picturesque. In the National Archives in College Park, Md., Ms. Roberts found evidence — including one blurry, curling snapshot — supporting long-circulating colorful anecdotes about the Blue and Gray Corral, a brothel set up near the village of St. Renan in September 1944 by Maj. Gen. Charles H. Gerhardt, commander of the infantry division that landed at Omaha Beach, partly to counter a wave of rape accusations against G.I.’s. (It was shut down after a mere five hours.) . . . “White soldiers got a pass because of their combat status,” said William I. Hitchcock, author of “The Bitter Road to Freedom” (2008), a history of the liberation of Western Europe from the perspective of often traumatized local civilians. “The Army wasn’t interested in prosecuting a battle-scarred sergeant.” . . .

May 14, 2013

Maya Angelou Was San Francisco’s First Black Streetcar Conductor

With video. Maya Angelou Was San Francisco's First Black Streetcar Conductor (Video)
Poet Maya Angelou may already have a dizzying list of accomplishments but there is none more surprising to be revealed as her stint as a streetcar conductor in San Francisco. In an interview with Oprah, Angelou was just 16 years old and still in high school when she decided to pursue the position. The uniforms caught her eye and she soon went to apply for a job. Though many women worked as streetcar conductors, at the time none of them were women of color. Angelou was denied an application, but that didn’t stop her from soldiering on. With her mother Vivian Baxter’s encouragement and suggestion, Angelou says she sat in SF’s transit office every day for two weeks. She would arrive earlier than the secretaries and wouldn’t leave until after they had gone for the day. “They laughed at me, they pushed out their lips and used some negative racial things,” but she persisted. It was that determination that got Angelou the job, she says. Baxter acted as a strong support system once Angelou got the job, waking her up at 4 AM every day of work with a bath already drawn.

May 10, 2013

The Geography of Hate: geolocating hateful tweets in America

It's a map of racist, homophobic and bigoted tweets in America. Hate Map
Following the 2012 US Presidential election, we created a map of tweets that referred to President Obama using a variety of racist slurs. In the wake of that map, we received a number of criticisms - some constructive, others not - about how we were measuring what we determined to be racist sentiments. In that work, we showed that the states with the highest relative amount of racist content referencing President Obama - Mississippi and Alabama - were notable not only for being starkly anti-Obama in their voting patterns, but also for their problematic histories of racism. That is, even a fairly crude and cursory analysis can show how contemporary expressions of racism on social media can be tied to any number of contextual factors which explain their persistence. The prominence of debates around online bullying and the censorship of hate speech prompted us to examine how social media has become an important conduit for hate speech, and how particular terminology used to degrade a given minority group is expressed geographically. As we’ve documented in a variety of cases, the virtual spaces of social media are intensely tied to particular socio-spatial contexts in the offline world, and as this work shows, the geography of online hate speech is no different. Rather than focusing just on hate directed towards a single individual at a single point in time, we wanted to analyze a broader swath of discriminatory speech in social media, including the usage of racist, homophobic and ableist slurs.